Studies in Ephesians [Series]
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church"
1. Tracing the Congregation's History!
Reading : Acts 20: 17 - 38
* Introduction: John A Mackay's familiar sentence needs to be written large in our minds and hearts:"WE COME TO CHRIST INDIVIDUALLY, BUT WE DO NOT LIVE IN CHRIST SOLITARILY". As people in a strong evangelical tradition we have a very "high" view of the Gospel, of personal commitment, and even of discipleship - but an extremely "low" view of the Church. The personal dimension of the Christian faith is very important - don't get me wrong about that - but our belonging to the Body, the fact that we are a community is equally important. It dare not be undervalued, taken for granted, or dismissed. By such attitudes we "despise the church of God" [cf 1 Cor. 11:22].
The NT supplies a blueprint for the Church, and Ephesians is about spelling out what it means to be the people of God and how we should live as the people of God. It deals with the general principles, which we in our turn need to appropriate to ourselves and apply specifically to our situation where we are. The plans, blueprints, plans, models and metaphors are all there in compelling and colourful array. They need to be interpreted and followed up on the ground of our situation today!
Ephesus was a major city in the Empire and a strategic centre of Christian mission and ministry - similar to Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth - or later, Rome itself. As a preliminary to our exploring Ephesians together, as well as the need for its message, let's look at the sequence of the story of the church there as we have it in the NT.
* 1. The Nature of Paul's Ministry in Ephesus
On the occasion of his farewell address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus Paul reviews his ministry among them - cf Acts 19
* It was a ministry of the Word - publicly and from house to house. ie large group - small group strategy; preaching and pastoral counsel. Notice how he describes his ministry:
preaching, teaching, declaring, testifying, proclaiming, warning
* It also included action - things happened. In Acts 19 miracles and riots!
* Notice too the personal qualities of his ministry: humility - v19, passion - v19, urgency - v31, integrity- v21,27,33
The outcome of this ministry was the evangelization of the region and the expansion of the Church: Acts 19:10, Acts 19:20
*2. Paul's Departure from Ephesus
During the meeting and address at Miletus Paul is deliberately handing over responsibility / power / authority to the elders with whom it had previously been shared. Notice there is the implicit recognition of giftedness in the body - cf Eph 4:11-3.
* There is the exhortation to fulfil their ministry: "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers" v28; "Be shepherds of the church of God.....Remember [Paul the model]"
Notice: the sequence of the keeping watch! how the Church is described - in terms of the Cross!
how Paul has modelled the ministry!
* There is the warning - to keep watch and to be on guard against savage elements outside the fellowship as well as cunning elements within the fellowship [the power vacuum].
*3. The Situation in Timothy's Ministry
Next is the situation as described in the letters to Timothy as bishop/pastor in Ephesus. Timothy is urged to make a firm stand in the face of steady decline.
* cf: 1 Tim. 1:3 - 7; 1:18 - 20; 4:15 - 16; 6:11 - 16
2 Tim. 1:12; 1:13 - 14
* Paul urges perseverence, because it is not only decline it is corruption:
- corruption of devotion to Christ: cf Demas has forsaken me
- corruption of Christian living and Christian standards by society's attitudes and code of conduct
- corruption of Christian belief/doctrine - doesn't matter!
*4. The Word about the Lampstand!
The final scene is that set out in the letters to the seven churches [Rev 2-3], set as they are between the figures of the transcendent, reigning Lord on the one hand and the impending persecution and travail of the Church on the other.
* Notice the particular word to Ephesus - including words of praise and commendation. All the laudable attributes are offset by the fact they have lost / left their first love. They are now urged to "remember...repent and do". The alternatives are stark: repentance or removal of their lampstand of witness. We have no independent right of continuance - only through faithfulness, obedience and service.
* Notice the word: "Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches!" Are we doing that? How can we do that today?
* Thus, now as then, there is great need for:
* RECOVERY - of vision, purpose, insight and understanding
* REDEDICATION - a true returning to the Lord with all our heart
* RENEWAL - a mighty, sovereign, authentic work of the Holy Spirit in the church
** CONCLUSION: We always seem to be beset by seasons of decline, of lukewarmness, of half-heartedness. Frequently it is because we fail to capture the significance if the people of God - our life in Christ TOGETHER. If we are truly to be "the holy seed", "the stump in the land", as Isaiah saw it [Isaiah 6:13], then we need to set our faces to the renewing of the Church in our time, as well as opening up our lives to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in these days.
"EPHESIANS: Letter of the Church"
2. "God's Grand Design"
Reading : Ephesians 1: 1 -14
Introduction: Think of the Church - any church / congregation / fellowship you have known or been a part of over the years. What has your experience been? What memories do you have? Even the best of them is :
* FINITE - got its particular limitations
* FLAWED - got its particular blind spots, weaknesses
* FALLIBLE - makes its particular mistakes
* FRUSTRATING - has its own brand of tension between
vision/practice, ideal/reality, will/deed!
We can share these responses because we tend to think primarily of the church in terms of structures [even buildings at times] programmes and people. And because people are involved NO church is perfect!
To be true the the NT when we think of the Church, we should first of all think of GOD. That is precisely where Paul begins in Ephesians. He launches into a marvellous doxology [strictly speaking - eulogy: blessing] in which he praises God for all He has done for believers in bringing them to himself and thus into the family of the Church. "BLESSED be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus......" Three times over the idea of blessing appears in the one verse - and then Paul takes off for the next 11 verses in one long involved sentence with metaphor piled upon metaphor, without seeming to draw his breath!!
* 1. The Great Charter of the Church:
When a body/organisation comes into being - often granted a charter - established with all its rights/prerogatives - its duties and responsibilities. So - a college, university, professional society or association, or a service club. So for us in the Church - the full majesty of the Godhead is involved in granting such privileges to believing people; all the resources of God in his eternal council [the community/fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit] have been brought to bear upon our great need, and released to help us. Notice what this great founding charter of the Church declares and sets forth that:
* BY THE FATHER, we have been -
CHOSEN - election; his choice of us is prior to our choice of Him
ADOPTED - brought into God's family with all the prestige, privileges and rights due to such status
ACCEPTED - we are acknowledge / received by God
In all of this, let us be quite clear, the Father acts in sovereignty and love rather than cold indifference.
* BY THE SON, we have been :
REDEEMED - "through his blood" - the great cost of the Cross
in the suffering of Jesus both physical and spiritual. This is the picture of being released from bondage into freedom - of membership in the family, of citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
FORGIVEN - forgiveness of sins - all that offends God and what Christ did on the Cross. Incidentally, the Father is directly and personally involved in redemption and forgiveness. It was the Father's plan and purpose of redemption. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" [2Cor5:18 RSV]
* BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, we have been -
SEALED - marked out clearly as belonging to God - a signal to the enemy not to tamper with us. Is that all too spiritual / theological for us? How can we tell if we have been marked/sealed in this way? Do you find it easy to speak to God in prayer - what do you say, how do you begin? - "FATHER..." That is is the work of the Spirit, teaching us to cry "Abba - my Father"! Also all those little green shoots of the harvest of the Spirit are evidence of his presence and working - and our sealing!
GUARRANTEED - firmly assured and divinely promised a future - no matter what may be the difficulties or privations of our pilgrimage. "Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!"-Rom 8. The arrabon is the betrothal token.
* 2. The Great Comprehension of the Church:
* In place of the world's brokenness, fragmentation and alienation, there is reconciliation, unification and belonging. In place of hurting, there is healing.
* Between sinful humanity and a holy God there is a new, eternal Covenant relationship
* Between Jew and Gentile - the supreme example of all human, earthly divisions. cf.Gal.3:28.- Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/
female. So for us of race, class, temperament, age, background - "ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS!" "In Him WE .... In Him YOU"
* Between Creation and the Church. The gathering up of "all things" [cf. Col. 1:15-20] under the Lordship of Christ.
* 3. The Great Compulsion of the Church:
* 3x in one verse  Paul emphasises the note of blessing. Similarly, 3x throughout his great doxology, Paul uses the phrase: "to the praise of his glory" or "his glorious grace".
* verses 5 and 6 - We have been destined and chosen to be God's children. God's love, glory and grace have been manifested.
* verse 12 - We have been made God's heritage, by election, adoption, redemption, reconciliation and incorporation into Christ, and appointed to live "to the praise of his glory".
* verse 14 - One day, as God's special possession we will finally be redeemed by God and brought into his eternal Kingdom in triumph - to the praise of his glory.
* CONCLUSION: In all our inner insecurity we can know the ASSURANCE he bestows. In all our shortcomings, failures and sin, we are given in Jesus redemption, forgiveness and acceptance. In the face of all our uncertainties we are confident of being kept by the power of God, having a future and a hope, and of one day being brought home to glory! Let's bless the Lord for all of that! That's what I would call a real Salvation package!
"EPHESIANS: Letter of the Church"
2. Christian Basics
Reading : Ephesians 1: 15 - 23
Introduction: Whatever else he was - apostle, missionary, church-planter, theologian, spiritual leader, preacher, and at the last, martyr - Paul was also a mighty PRAYER-WARRIOR. He was deeply involved in and committed to praying on behalf of his friends and colleagues. This is clear not only from this verse and this passage, as well as the concluding section of chapter 3 in Ephesians. It is amply demonstrated from his letters:cf Romans 1:8-10 "I remember you in my prayers at all times..."; 1Cor.1:4 "I always thank God for you"; Phil.1:3ff. "In all my prayers for all of you..."; Col. 1:3 "We always thank God...when we pray for you..."; 1Thess.1:2"....mentioning you in our prayers..", etc.
Notice it embraces both praise and petition, thanksgiving and intercession, Thank-you and Please praying. Can we use that as a model in our praying for one another? Clearly, Paul is delighted with the plain evidence of their consistent Christian lives. What, then, are the basics as Paul views them?
*** 1. The Need for FAITH in Christ:
* Faith as demonstrated in BELIEF- that is, what is believed / held to be the truth about JESUS of Nazareth. This includes the facts of his birth, life, teaching, deeds, death on the Cross, his resurrection, exaltation and return in glory There is also the SIGNIFICANCE or INTERPRETATION attached to these words / events. Notably was his death the inevitable outcome of a political/religious power struggle in a minor province of the Roman empire? The witness of the NT is that it was part of God's eternal design of things for the salvation of human beings and the redemption of the world. It was God's way of dealing with human sin! Also Jesus is not just a good man, a marvellous teacher, or an insightful spiritual leader - He is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. His death was an atonement for sin, and his resurrection was not just some morally uplifting legend/myth, but a fact of human history! Anything less fails to measure up to NT Christianity!
* Faith as demonstrated in COMMITMENT - not just an intellectual appreciation of a set of data, but a personal involvement and encounter with Jesus, together with commitment to him as Saviour and Lord. The sequence is frequently one of:
# CONVICTION by the Holy Spirit
# REPENTANCE - turning from my sin
# FAITH - the act of trusting/believing in Jesus personally
# COMMITMENT - Doing something about it
* Faith as demonstrated in NEW LIFESTYLE - when Jesus comes into our lives changes take place - often dramatic ones. Remember the story of Zachaeus - his live was turned right around, and he had new values and a different attitude and outlook!
*** 2. The Need for LOVE for the Saints:
This is another vital mark which should distinguish/characterise us as Christians, those who believe in and follow Jesus as Lord.
Cf: 1 John and the emphasis on "love for the brothers - fellow-believers". Here - "your love for all the saints".
* These believers are called SAINTS - not because they are perfect, or all of their personal faults and foibles are immediately eradicated. We are saints because of our relationship to God in Jesus - we are accepted in the one He loves! Not perfect, but we are forgiven. I like the slogan/poster which bears the legend: "Have patience with me, God isn't finished with me yet"! Thus no believer is "perfect" - we all have blemishes, even the best, or most important or most public of us. It means no congregation or fellowship is perfect either!
* It means we take seriously the fact of Christian COMMUNITY in the body - the sense of mutual dependence and interdependence - that's the whole thrust of the body passage in 1Cor.12. We are a fellowship - a participation in partnership. We are joined together in our sense of belongingness -
# bonded by the Cross - forgiveness/reconciliation
# bonded by the Holy Spirit - brotherhood/fellowship
* We see it in ACCEPTANCE/RECOGNITION rather than rejection; in inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness! We can be so exclusive - race, colour, class, education, theology, churchmanship, age, sex. So do we "receive / accept one another" in love? And affirm one another also?
*** 3. The Need for GROWTH in God:
As we come to new birth in Jesus - that is only the beginning - there is a whole growing and maturing process which goes on from that point. Thus we are always moving on - never fully arriving until Christ brings us home to glory. We've never fully "got it all together" until we get home to heaven!
* This is where the ministry of the Holy Spirit comes in. Notice, Paul keeps on "asking God to give them a Spirit of wisdom and revelation" - cf. understanding and discernment. In order to see INTO the truth of God's ways and workings, and to apply his truth as well as how he is moving in our times and lives!
* See the overall purpose in the request: "so that you may know him better"! See that particularly dynamic relationship between the Word of God and the Spirit of God in that idea. The Word is not just our spiritual textbook, it is a means of grace for us, whereby God reveals himself, enables us to come to know him. Too often we read our Bibles as an intellectual exercise - to grapple with the doctrine, or appreciate the system of belief. We need much more - while not denigrating the Christian mind - to read it with the opened / enlightened "eyes of the heart". Don't sterilize the truth of God - allow it to touch you.
* Knowing God better is the dimension of our personal relation-ship with him. - cf courtship. The word for "know" here is the same as that for the intimacy of lovers. God wants US to know him better - through His Word, by His Spirit, in our Worship.
"EPHESIANS:Letter of the Church"
3. "From Death to Life!"
Reading : Ephesians 2: 1 - 10
* Introduction: We don't like to be taken for granted! Have we become so blase in the Church that we no longer have any sense of wonder at what God has done for us in Christ? If taking them for granted is almost the greatest sin against our loved ones - parents, wives, husbands, children, friends - then how much more is it true of our attitude to God? We need to recover our sense of appreciation for what we have been saved FROM and for what we have been saved TO.!
That's where this section of the letter comes in. The passage as a single sentence summary of the new life in Christ - putting together the elementary facts of conversion, perhaps to be used in connection with baptism. Be that as it may, we certainly have a vivid presentation of what we were prior to our conversion, the means and results of salvation, as well as the intention or purpose of the Christian life.
*** 1. The Deception which ruins us: [1 - 3]
We tend to see ourselves as essentially good - admittedly with a few minor quirks, faults and failings; - which we usually think of as traits to be admired! This is a deception, originated by Satan who is the father of lies, "a deceiver from the beginning", and perpetuated by our self-delusion. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins..."  That is dead towards God. Notice how stark is the description - dead: not sick, not seriously ill, not dying - DEAD
See how this condition is characterised: We are -
* DISOBEDIENT: This is demonstrated by ignoring God's requirements, by indifference to his purposes by repudiating his kingship in arrogant revolt. Notice, that whilke this situation is decribed as "death" there is a way of life being pursued - we are "walking" as the KJV says. cf -
# this world [the counterfeit community to the Kingdom and its manifestation in the church]
# the ruler [the counterfeit King/Lord]
# the spirit [the counterfeit spirit working disobedience rather than obedience]
* DEPRAVED: The "ways of this world" include pandering to and indulging all "the cravings of our sinful nature" [3a] This includes not only sexual sin and vice - but that "covetousness which is idolatry", the grasping attitude which cannot see anything but it must have it whatever the cost to oneself or to others; be it position, prestige or possessions. We not only gratify/yield to such desires and aspirations, but we positively feed and foster them so that they grow and strengthen until they control and dominate our personalities! That's what the Reformers' "total depravity" means - not devoid of good.
* DOOMED: In this way, says Paul, we are "objects of wrath" [NIV] or "children of wrath"[so KJV,RSV]. We are those upon whom the righteous judgement of a holy God justly falls. [3b]
*** 2. The Deliverance which redeems us:
Still reeling from the realities of our sinful condition before God, there is a strong adversive introduced by two marvellous words: "BUT GOD..."  and outlines what God has done -
* LOVE - "Because of his great love for us..." God is not indifferent to our predicament. God does not hate us. He loves us. It is not that God couldn't care less, it is that He couldn't care more for us! cf John:"God loved the world so much that He gave..." and Paul: "the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me"
* MERCY - "God who is rich in mercy..." He has compassion on our weakness and need. The prisoner convicted and condemned, requires not justice but mercy. For us mercy leads to justification, forgiveness, acceptance, reconciliation and restoration.
* GRACE - "for it is by grace you have been saved..." God's saving action on our behalf has nothing to do with our deserving or desiring. He acts sovereignly in accordance with his nature.
* WHAT has God done for us in salvation? HE HAS :
# "made us alive with Christ"  ie in his and resurrection
# "raised us up with Christ"  ie in his ascension
# "seated us with him in the heavenly realms" - ie imparted to us sonship and authority
* It is by grace through FAITH , not of WORKS , thus clearly salvation is entirely "the gift of God". We have nothing to claim - for we stand condemned before God. We have nothing to boast of - except the cross of Christ. We have nothing to do - except receive the gracious gift of God. We have nothing to add - save the "grace-notes" of our thankful praise and worship to the glory of his Name!
*** 3. The Destiny which rejoices us:
What has been God's intention in all of this? What is the nature and purpose of our new life in Christ?
* verse 7 - "IN ORDER THAT in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace..." Notice, not just in the future glory but through the succeeding years and generations of the church, including our own, he makes plain the lavishness of his grace working in us and flowing through us [cf 1:19f].
* verse 10a "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus..." We are the new creation of our great Creator-God, the God of intricate design and infinite variety, the creator of snowflakes and atoms. From the word for "workmanship" we derive our word - "poem" - a thing of style, significance, beauty, a work of art!
* verse 10b "created in Christ Jesus to do good works" - cf. "that we should walk in them.."[RSV] Truly, "faith without works is dead". We are to proclaim the message and demonstrate life of the Kingdom. The good works, resulting from a right relationship with God in Christ, include praise and worship, witness and evangelism, compassion and service, fellowship and caring, striving for truth and justice. Thus rather than walking in the ways of this world, we should be walking in the ways of the Kingdom. God is working in us NOW by grace to enable us to do so.
Thus we come "Out of the Graveyard" of a life-of-death and into the newness/fullness of life in Christ and the freedom of the children of God.
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church"
4. "Alienated And Reconciled"
Reading: Ephesians 2: 11 - 22
* Introduction: RECONCILIATION is a rich word - a key word. The GNB usually translates it as "God making us into his friends" or its equivalent. The main thrust is that it is a word which speaks of relationship - of parties being brought together. We still have it today in industrial relations when we speak of parties to a dispute being taken to conciliation. It is a particularly significant spiritual truth - used much by Paul elsewhere. For example in the 2Cor.5:19 passage which includes such important statements as:"God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself", that God has given us "the ministry of reconciliation" and "has committed to us the message of reconciliation".
The 20th century theologian Paul Tillich has in a very helpful way described sin as "estrangement" or alienation. Again the picture is of a broken relationship. Within that framework "reconciliation" as a description of the ministry and work of Jesus is particularly compelling and meaningful, bringing in wholeness, healing and togetherness.
*** 1. Reconciliation Affirmed:
* "He himself is our peace" - He not only makes peace, but IS himself our peace. - He and no other, he alone, he in his own person; thus truly, He is the prince of peace. Such peace of course includes all that is embraced by the Hebrew concept of "shalom"- total wellbeing, or even "the full spiritual blessing"!
* Notice verse 13 - "BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS" almost paralleling the adversive of 2:4 - "BUT GOD!" Once far away, excluded and shut off from the promises, the covenants, the hope, we have been "brought near". How so - specifically? - "through the blood of Christ" cf. Col. 1:20 "making peace through his blood shed on the cross".
* In Christ we are reconciled to God - into a restored relationship with Him, brought from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light and love. This isn't something that changed God's mind or attitude towards us - for God was in Christ reconciling. God loves us!
* In Christ we are reconciled to one another, to neighbour and brother. Because part of the very fabric of things is that not only are we estranged from God as the outcome of sin, but we are estranged from one another. The world is a divided place - confusion, confrontation and conflict. So primarily here - in Jew and Gentile. What Jesus did on the Cross brings people together: reconciliation out of estrangement and alienation.
* In Christ we are reconciled to ourselves. We hear a great deal today about poor self-image. Basically, we are in turmoil, disquieted, not at peace with ourselves: confused and in conflict. Jesus ministers the love of God to us. He brings healing for our hurting, and cohesion for our confusion.
*** 2. Reconciliation Applied:
* In a particularly vivid metaphor Paul describes the practical effect of reconciliation as the breking down of a wall. We are all familiar with the reference in the Gospel to the veil of the temple which was torn in two as Jesus died on the Cross. Similarly, says Paul, Christ's death on the cross demolished another "barrier", between the court of Israel and the court of the Gentiles. [By inference that could also be extended to men and women - cf Gal.3:28!]
* To what walls of division might we see the reconciliation in Christ applied in our experience, our situation, and our lives? By that I mean within the church, our participating in the community of the Kingdom. What walls/barriers might there be?:
# Suspicion: Perhaps because of their slightly different stance from ourselves. We stick labels on one another: conservative, radical, evangelical, charismatic. We are wary of the motivation of others. We see them as empire-building, as making power bids, or as taking over "our" church, or place. And it is within ourselves all the time, rather than in the other.
# Rivalry: Sometimes when we feel threatened by another's gifts, abilities and ministry. We are not in competition but in fellowship; we are not rivals but partners and team-mates. Another's gifts do not diminish me, my worth or my gifts. They enrich the body and enable the King's mission to proceed in the world.
# Criticism: Very often our destructive criticism of others in the body is because of our own fears and insecurities. Thus our criticism is our defence mechanism.
# Hostility: Here is the ultimate. The thing has grown and festered within us until our reactions are red raw and a spirit of antagonism towards a person or a group has taken us over. The outcome is either avoidance or confrontation/conflict.
*** 3. Reconciliation Attested:
The shift from estragement and alienation to reconciliation and fellowship is emphasised in these verses by the use of "one" 4x. The summary is in 2:14 - where Christ our peace "has made the two one..." That is further expanded, illuminated and illustrated:
* "one new man" - verse 15 From this and similar pictures came the later reference to the Christians being "the third race" - as distinct from Jews and Gentiles. Notice the use of "kainos"= new in quality rather than recent. Implication not just the two have merged, but that something entirely and uniquely distinct has been created - "new creation?"
* "this one body" - verse 16 Possibly referring to the body of Jesus on the cross redeeming and reconciling: one offering sufficient for both Jew and Gentile. More probably speaking of the Church which is the outcome of his death.
* "by one Spirit" - verse 17 Reconciliation brings with it relationship with God and "freedom of speech" in His presence. Both - or all of us within the one body of the church are enabled to do so "by one Spirit" - Abba - Father. Let's appreciate our reconciliation in its fulness! We are received, accepted, integrated into the Kingdom. We belong - none of us is there on sufferance, or as second class citizens or poor relations.
EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church
5. "Longing For Fulness"
Reading: Ephesians 3: 14 - 21
Introduction: Fundamental to this Letter is the truth that there is only one people of God manifesting oneness, equality and fellowship in a dynamic way. In God's new society there is no superior or inferior status, no first and second class citizenship. This is applied with deeply intense feeling as Paul resumes his pastoral prayer. When Paul says, "I bow my knees" or "I kneel before the Father" he is indicating intensity in his praying - such is his passionate concern for these fellow believers. Compare the words of Jesus about hungering and thirsting after righteousness, or the the words of Jacob as he wrestled with the angel at Peniel:"I will not let you go unless you bless me!" [Gen.32:26] Paul's prayer requests are not just for "the lifestyles of the spiritually rich and famous"? They are for us - God does not mock us.
*** 1. The Spirit's Power
What is being spoken of here is the reality of the Holy Spirit's effective working first WITHIN us then THROUGH us. Notice -
* The source is "the riches of his glory" or "his glorious riches". But it is also proportionate to them. Your rich millionaire uncle giving you the odd $20 would be doing so "out" of his riches - $20,000 would be "according to" his riches!
* The objective is to "strengthen" us - to reinforce us. ILL: my handyman knowledge is negligible. I remember seeing a concrete slab for the floor of a sunday school room being poured, and halfway through the pour, the steel mesh being put in.
* The place where we are to be strengthened is "in your inner being" - "the inner man"[RSV]. Barclay gives a very interesting insight into the fact that the Greeks regarded the inner being as comprising the reason, the conscience and the will. The fortified mind [cf "the renewing of your mind" Rom.12:1,2], the sensitised conscience [contra the conscience "seared as with a hot iron" 1.Tim.4:2], and the motivated or enabled will [cf. "God is at work within you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" Phil.2:13]
* That reinforcing of the divine work within is effected both by the fruiting and the gifting of the Holy Spirit; the one transforming us into the likeness of Jesus more and more day by day, the other enabling and equipping us for Kingdom service
*** 2. Christ's Indwelling:
Surely we haven't got it wrong? Every believer has the Lord Jesus dwelling within him or her by faith right from the start?
* We have prerogatives within the family and household of God. We belong. That means we are not visitors; we have the run of the place - all the "rooms" in our Father's house. Rather what is being spoken of here is Jesus belonging in the house of our lives - and being free to use all the facilities as His own! That's the emphasis and significance of "katoikein"= dwelling permanently, belonging. cf. Eph.2:22 same word used of the Spirit dwelling in the temple of the church. Here it is Christ - by the Spirit - dwelling in our lives in freedom and comfort, making himself at home, because it belongs to him!
* What it is really speaking of is his Lordship over our lives. While we don't want to get into a division between confessing Jesus as Saviour and owning him as our Lord for He cannot be one without the other, in fact so often we live as if He were our Saviour/Friend, but not our Lord. It is not the truth which is at fault, but our perception, our profession, and our practice. "Behold I stand at the door and knock.." is not really the "gospel" text we so often take it for. It is addressed to professed believers/Christians who are keeping the Lord of their lives and of the Church on the outside. Let Him in. Enthrone him in your life!
*** 3. Love's Abundance:
* Notice the mixed metaphors - both of which emphasise strength and stability [17b] "rooted and grounded in love"[RSV], "deep roots and firm foundations"[NEB], "may your roots go deep down into the soil of God's marvellous love" [Living Bible] Roots are important for plants and trees. Foundations are important for buildings - not least in earthquake territory; stability and flexibilitiy for staying power.
* Again the metaphor is mixed. We are to be firmly rooted and established in God's love but growing up and reaching out to grasp more fully Christ's love. At once we are rooted in and reaching for God's love.
* Seeking to comprehend it - take it mentally and appropriate it personally and spiritually - in all its fulness. "the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given" [Rom.5:5] cf. to "know" it unlike gnosis!
*** 4. God's Fulness:
* Again this was a slogan/catch-cry in the early church, the boasting of or the desire for "pleroma". Are we longing and thirsting for fulness - all the righteousness Christ offers, everything God wants to give us as his servants and beloved children? Then this is the way to it - to realise our full potential for Christ, by the gracious filling of the Holy Spirit.
* So often our experience is not of fulness but of shallowness, of superficiality, of meagreness, indeed of emptiness. Yet Jesus promised fulness - to the woman at the well [John 4:13f] and to the crowd on the last great day of the feast [John 7:37f].
*** 5. The Lord's Glory:
* He is the One who is able to do. He grants and works all these things in our lives and experience. We are not excluded. We should not exclude ourselves. Our cry should be:"blessing others - O bless ME" and "While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by!" He does "immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine"!
* "To Him be glory in the Church" - it is all for our blessing and for His glory!
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church"
6. "The Goal is Maturity"
Reading: Ephesians 4: 1 - 16
Introduction: "Why don't you grow up!" - How often have we heard that kind of remark, these very words, addressed to someone have some particularly inane action or childish attitude? It was J.M.Barrie who created the marvellous story of childhood in Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. But in real life there is something very sad about adults who haven't grown up, who are basically immature, and seem to be developmentally stunted. Childlikeness is a virtue, childishness is not.
***1. The Means of Maturity: 
This brings us right into the whole area of spiritual gifts, and thus we need to keep in mind other passages such as 1Cor.12-14 and Rom.12:3-8. While the consideration - as well as the list - of the gifts is limited here, it is within the context of the goal of Christian maturity.
* The NT view is that every Christian believer has been granted a gift of grace. See verse 7: "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it". The idea almost of passing round the presents/gifts in a group!
* There is the factor of the Lordship of Christ. The distribution of the gifts is "as he wills" cf 1Cor12:11.
* Ego-tripping has no place in our understanding of spiritual gifts or giftedness. See the 1Cor.12 passage on the body with its direct references to wrong attitudes both of inferiority complex - "I don't belong"; and superiority complex - "I don't need you!" The gifts are a stewardship - held in trust for and exercised on behalf of the body for their upbuilding/maturing - cf. Eph.3:2 "the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you".
* The rich variety of the gifts. When you put together the various lists of gifts you soon appreciate the range. Peter Wagner lists some 27 - including voluntary poverty and martyrdom! Here in Eph.4 those mentioned seem to relate to the ministry of the Word and the leadership or oversight of the church.
*** 2. The Ministry of Maturity: 
We need to keep the flow of the thought rather than be put of by or confined to verse divisions here.
* Notice the purpose of the gifts. It is "to prepare/equip God's people for works of service". The word here is "katartizmon" which is the word used of mending the broken, torn nets as a preliminary to returning to the task of fishing.
* The clear implication of these words is that just as every believer has a gift - so every member has a ministry. As we are personally involved in and committed to some piece of ministry / work / service so we are making progress towards proper maturity. * However our involvement in ministry is not only for our personal maturity, it has to do with the edification of the body of Christ - "so that the body of Christ may be built up". In a word, corporate maturity.
*** 3. The Marks of Maturity: 
The completeness towards which the building up of the body of Christ is proceeding is summarised in verse 13 by the use of three significant phrases introduced by the word "until" and in the middle is the word "mature": "Until we all reach....."
# "unity in the faith" - certainly our sense of oneness is "given" to us by Jesus, but clearly that unity has to be both "maintained" [see verse 3] and "attained" [so here RSV]. Are we growing together in unity - in love, acceptance, vision, purpose? # "the knowledge of the Son of God" - surely refers to deep heart-knowing rather than superficial, top-of-the-head knowing? cf John 17:3; Phil.3:10. Christ is ministered to us through the Word and by the Holy Spirit where we are day by day.
# "the whole measure of the fulness/pleroma of Christ" - until we enter into the possession of all God has for us. No more shallowness or emptiness or longing. God's fulness dwells in Christ. Christ's fulness will dwell in us! This is to drink of Him and never thirst again.
*** 4. The Measure of Maturity: [14-5]
Progress is measured in movement from immaturity towards maturity. What are the signs and indicators? -
* "no longer children" - vulnerable and easily led, requiring constant care and tending, totally dependent, unable to have responsibility for oneself
* Not "tossed back and forth...blown here and there by every wind of doctrine" - lacking spiritual discernment and discrimination; at the mercy of every latest "fad" and "in" thing on the Christian scene. The aim is stability in the faith [cf 3:17] rather than rigidity of opinion; openness to what the Spirit is saying, rather than spiritual gullibility! Too many are dizzy/confused.
* Not duped by false teachers and leaders - "the cunning and craftiness of men" - who have their own hidden agendas and schemes and are concerned with the manipulation of the saints rather than the edification of the saints! cf. 2 Tim.3:6,7.
* "Speaking the truth in love" - literally "truthing it in love". Speaking and living in love - practising integrity in all our dealings with one another, whether in relationships, conversation, admonition, encouragement and affirmation.
* We are "growing up in every way into Him who is our Head - Christ". He is at once our source and our sovereign - lordship again. We are irrevocably being drawn towards Him more and more.
*** 5. The Model of Maturity: 
# the "whole body" is in process of growth - again the corporate rather than the individual emphasis
# its cohesion - its wholeness is affirmed and aided when every joint, part and ligament "is working properly" [RSV] - "as each part does its work" [NIV].
# The whole structure is being built up "in love" - not in an unbiblical individualism, not in hard unloving legalism, and not in institutionalism. This is so because "God is love" and "the fruit of the Spirit is love..." Thus the Church is the community characterised by the growing fellowship of love - that is the atmosphere of the people of God.
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church"
7. "The Way of Holiness"
Reading : Ephesians 4: 17 - 32
*Introduction: Christians should want to live worthy of all God has done for them in Jesus. This is brought into perspective as we realise and appreciate more fully the calling we have received. We have been called to unity and community - to life-in-relationship with one another as the people of God. Equally, we have been called to purity, to the way of holiness, to a manner of life that reflects albeit imperfectly, something of the nature of God. An earlier generation seemed to appreciate that a major result of repentance, faith and personal commitment should be a radically altered lifestyle.
Within the NT itself there is a real awareness of the pressure on believers to conform to the world, to revert to their old ways of living. We live in a time when we need to tread a careful line between identification with the world's needs and assimilation into the world's standards. The apostolic requirement of living differently is today derided and denigrated as being smug superiority, uncaring and judgmental. Like first century believers we are a minority in a vast sea of paganism and the pressures to conform are both very great and very real!
*** 1. The Exhortation to Holiness: [17 - 19]
* See how Paul brings his full authority to bear on this matter  - "and insist on it in the Lord". This is not just the pet hobby horse of some emotional preacher, or deviant sect, or group of killjoy fundamentalists. Its roots are in the words, attitudes and expectations of Jesus.
* The pagan way of life is the result of "the futility of their thinking" [NIV] or "their minds"[RSV]. Futile minds need rebirth rather than repair. They are set on pursuing selfish goals, grasping unlasting earthly possessions and seeking satisfaction in things which will prove to be disappointing and deceptive.
* Further, they are shut off/excluded from the life of God because of their darkened understanding and "ignorance" - education but "no knowledge of God". It all stems from their "hardness of heart". Compare this with Romans 1:18-32, that particularly telling indictment on human sinfulness in which three times we are told "God gave them up/over..."
* The effects of such entrenched spiritual attitudes is that people lose "all sensitivity" - that is, they become morally and spiritually calloused - devoid of proper feeling, no sense of what is due to others or to God, no sense of pain or guilt.
* They have "given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" [NIV] - "greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness" [RSV]. Here is a society in which every moral restraint is thrown aside and there is the avid pursuit of sexual licentiousness. The reference to the "continual lust for more" is not only in connection with sexual sin - but for "more" of everything - cf. "covetousness which is idolatry".
*** 2. The Experience of Holiness: [20 - 24]
* The solid ground in this morass of selfishness, self-seeking, and the fluctuating standards of situational ethics is the person of Jesus. It was not in this way we came to know Jesus or learned from him . Believers are those who have "heard him" and are being "taught in him"  and who are bringing their lives more and more into line with "the truth that is in Jesus" .
* In the light of all this WE are required to do certain things. Our wills are required to be brought to bear in this matter - altho' certainly we will discover what it is to be "strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man" [Eph. 3:16 RSV]. It is again the happy joining together of our responsibility for action and attitude with God's gracious provision and enabling. Thus we are called upon to "put off" the old self and its ways . We have to cast away the soiled, stained and stinking garments of the old life; after all why hold on to them. But people are rather like the man in the TV advert back from his fishing trip. His wife wants to throw out his smelly old shirt which not even this special detergent can fix - and he won't hear of it. He likes it! * Moreover, we are called to "put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" . We are to put on the fresh, fair fragrant linen which belongs to the people of God. Ours are not to be the rags of the vagrants' doss-house, but the garments appropriate to the king's audience chamber. These 2 verbs are aorist/decisive
* At the centre we have to "be made new in the attitude of your minds"  - the renewed mind of Rom.12:2 and the mind set of the Spirit of Rom.8. The verb here denotes continuous action.
*** 3. The Expression of Holiness: [25 - 32]
# From falsehood/lying to the truth: What subtle forms it can take - everything from the outright lie to the truth shaded, the exaggerated claim, the foolish promise. Put it off - lay it aside. Deal truthfully - and notice the reason .
* From unrighteous anger to righteous anger: "Be angry but do not sin!"[RSV] What might inspire righteous anger? [Usually something affecting OTHERS!] Unrighteous anger is usually selfish - because of what has happened to ME. We tend to nurse it, nourish it until it spills over in resentment and vindictiveness. Watch it - don't let it simmer or spill over!
* From stealing to sharing: The motive is service.
* From unwholesome words to edifying speech: What is our conversation really like among ourselves? Is it true? Is it loving? Is it necessary? Or is it Christian rumour-monging and spiritual gossip? Does it "impart grace to those who hear"?[RSV] Notice it is directly in this connection that the word comes: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" .
* From vices to virtues: What a sorry catalogue of things to be checked off and thrown out of our lives - and what virtues are to be nourished instead! See the basis of our relationships .
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church
8. "In Love and Light"
Reading : Ephesians 5: 1 - 14
* Introduction: In Christ God has called us savingly to himself. Thus we are called upon to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received"[4:1] - in terms of unity/community and maturity. We are called to follow holiness/purity and so live differently from the society in which we are set. Paul asserts: "so I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking" [4:17].
Building on this thrust of living worthily and living differently, Paul now proceeds to apply it in a double-edged way, by making it plain that believers are called to walk/live both in love and in light. It should be noted that these are not just neat slogans or jingoistic catch-cries, but that they have both significant content and practical context. How can we live worthily of God in today's world. In what ways should we be living differently in today's society?
*** 1. The Attributes Christians should follow:
* "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children..." Again the emphasis is upon the family bond, and how children copy / imitate those whom they love - usually father or mother. Every family can tell humorous stories of childhood incidents based precisely upon that fact.
* In what specific regard have we to copy our heavenly Father? "Live a life of love" - have love, the agape-love of God as the controlling, motivating, governing factor in our lives. But more
"just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". See how Jesus becomes again our model in terms of incarnating the love of God :
# Servanthood - for us, now us for others
# Self-giving - "a fragrant offering"
# Sacrifice - the principle and practice of the Cross
Moreover, this love of God comes only from God, by the Spirit's giving, for "the fruit of the Spirit is love..", the result of his gracious indwelling..
* "Live as children of light!"  cf. Jesus statement in John's Gospel: "I am the light of the world, So if you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path" [8:12LB]. Also compare the message in 1 John - "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His son, purifies us from all sin". [1:7]
* See verse 9 "the fruit of light consists in...: something of a mixed metaphor perhaps but very powerful.
# All goodness - towards others
# righteousness- towards God
# truth - towards self [integrity]
*** 2. The Abhorance Christians should feel:
* Paul speaks of the counterfeit love with which the Greek/Roman world is saturated - not least in such cults as that of Artemis of the Ephesians. The counterfeit to agape-love is depicted in three powerful words:# porneia-immorality; # akatharsia-impurity;
# pleonexia - greed/covetousness. In terms of light - the contrast is with the darkness, from which they have come, in which they once walked, and by which they continue to be surrounded! cf "the fruitless deeds of darkness".
* See how the injunction extends from actions or participation to words, talking and speaking . The appriopriate manner of speech of Christians regarding sex and sexuality is neither gutter-humour nor prudery, but rather prayer and praise in thanksgiving! Talking can suck us in to wrong thinking and lead us in the wrong direction. Compare verse 12: "it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret".
* Thus abhorrence is joined with avoidance in the Christian's reaction to the world's concerns and way of life! See verse 7: "Do not be partners with them" and verse 11: "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness". In Gk text there it is the word "koinonia" which is used - fellowship, participation, partnership - belongingness!
* Notice too the note of judgement in the passage. See how in verse 5 it comes upon the very people who exhibit / participate in such a way of life as is prohibited in verse 3. Also verses 13 and 14 the light comes to reveal in judgement. Look up the saying of Jesus in John 3:19f.
*** 3. The Attitudes Christians should foster:
* BE ALERT! - "Let no one deceive you with empty words" . We need to be on guard against those who would seek to beguile us and dupe us with soft words, high-sounding sentiments or reasonable-seeming explanations as to why we should set aside the clear command of Scripture!
Remember the words of the prophet concerning those who speak "Peace, peace when there is no peace" Jeremiah 8:11. Here is a very practical connection with 4:12-16, concerning the need to grow towards a practical maturity - stable in faith.
* BE DILIGENT! - "Find out what pleases [is pleasing to] the Lord"  "Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord"[RSV].
How do we do that?
# By reading/studying the Scriptures to seek to know God better
# By our openness to the prompting, leading, directing of the Holy Spirit in our lives
# By maintaining warm fellowship and good relationships within the Body of Christ and seeking wise counsel from proven, trusted leadership.
We need to take steps now to walk in the agape-love of God, as modelled by Jesus, forsaking the spurious counterfeit of the world in immorality and covetousness. Let us walk as children of light, walking in the light as He is in the light?
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church"
9. "Six Guiding Principles"
Reading : Ephesians 5: 15 - 21
* Introduction: Rotary International has a little summary of its expectatations of the standard of conduct it looks for in its members round the world - its guiding principles. They call it "The Four Way Test". We have followed Paul in his exploration of what it means for Christians to live worthily of the Lord who called them. In the space of a few verses, in a few key phrases he brings together some guiding principles for Christian living. We need to bear in mind the practical nature of these words.
*** 1. Live Carefully - not Carelessly!: 
* Need to be wise in conduct, rather than foolish. To "walk circumspectly" [KJV], in a word to give care and attention to the manner of life we pursue, because it is important rather than unimportant. Always be wary of glib, smooth talk which says; "It doesn't really matter", or "But it's only...."
* Live carefully - because "do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God?" Also - "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God..."[4:30]
* Live carefully - because the world is watching and the enemy of souls seeks to lure us into paths of temptation, faithlessness, compromise and disobedience.
*** 2. Redeem the Time!: 
* "Make the most of every opportunity" - to grow in grace, to grow in discipleship and maturity, to extend the Kingdom through ministry, witness and service to others. This is not the selfish opportunism of the world, but rather the kingdom kairos - a special time, a unique moment, a God-given opportunity. It is God's time - which in passing might not come again. Napoleon is reputed to have said that in any battle there is a ten to fifteen minutes period that is crucial. Grasping that time leads to victory. Letting it slip away from you leads to defeat.
* We are to be living differently in that WE are not concerned with just passing time, far less with wasting time, but with using and utilising time! Redeeming time means to be buying it up - like a special offer on a market day - eagerly and thankfully.
* Making the most of the time surely also involves dedicating our days to the Lord for His service and glory. "Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise!"
*** 3. Understand what the Will of the Lord is!: 
* Here again the thrust is for a proper Christian maturity marked by true understanding, spiritual perception and practical discernment or application to real-life situations.
* The foolishness we are asked to avoid is the spiritual confusion, blindness and superficiality which are the characteristics of immaturity in the Christian life of faith.
* We are not left to guess our way through the maze of this world - the Scriptures have been given to us as chart and compass, to instruct us clearly in the ways of God. There is no shortcut to spiritual maturity - and one of the disciplines is that we must truly come to grips with the Scriptures, not simply in stimulating our intellectual understanding or appreciation of them [to get it all together in our heads!] but that we might come to know God and nourish ourselves [soul and spirit] on Him. See again Ephesians 4:12-16.
*** 4. Keep on Being Filled with the Holy Spirit!: 
* Instead of the meagreness or emptiness of our experience we are presented with the scriptural principle of fulness. * There is the sense of permission - of our allowing God to keep on filling us up with the Holy Spirit. "Out of his infinite riches in Jesus - He giveth and giveth and giveth again..."
* Notice there is a similarity / contrast with drunkenness. Don't be intoxicated with the old wine of the flesh - but with the new wine of the Spirit. Do we know anything of the intoxication of the Spirit - the heady joy, the thrilling ecstasy of worship, the wonder of new experience? * Are we like children with their faces pressed against the window of the toyshop; full of longing but unwilling or unable to go in and make what we long for our own? Cf. Jesus to the paralysed man by the pool: "Do you want to be healed?"
*** 5. Always and For Everything Giving Thanks!: [19-20]
* Not only here the dimension of music and song so characteristic of Christian worship - however valid or worthy that might be, but of praise and thanksgiving as a way of life.
* Clearly it should be a feature of our fellowship together, our life-in-relationship with one another for we have to "speak to one another with....." Is our speaking negative or positive, decrying or affirming, murmuring or encouraging?
* Is your life a melody "to the Lord" - as the song says: "Let me be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear"! Is our life a continuous anthem of praise to God for his bounty, his goodness and his faithfulness towards us? Are we giving thanks - ALWAYS ? and FOR EVERYTHING? Objectively focussing on who HE is, considering HIM, rather than subjectively looking into ourselves. It is done "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ".
*** 6. Mutual Submission!: 
* Certainly verse 21 stands at the head of the next important section on relationships in key areas of the Christian life. It is also a link between what has come before and what follows after. It clearly is a summary statement of principle, in that mutual submission should be a characteristic of the Christian fellowship and Christian lifestyle. We are urged to "esteem each other better than ourselves", but the emphasis there is not so much on poor self-image as on life together.
* Mutual submission is the key, not worldly attitudes of domination or manipulation. The figure of the towel and the basin in the upper room of John 13 has far reaching implications for all Christian fellowship, leadership and service. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" [13:12] not only in cleansing but in modelling! "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" [13:15].
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church"
10. Christian Relationships
Reading : Ephesians 5:21 -6:9
* Introduction: Effective discipleship, living worthily of the Lord, includes the quality and style of our personal relationships. In the world-view of the first century, the privileges were all on the one side and the obligations were all on the other. Thus, for example Barclay makes very plain that the husband and father held absolute sway in the contemporary culture in terms of "patria potestas". The radical distinction of Christian teaching is that the obligations are mutual and the privileges are reciprocal. Let's look at these particular relationships and seek to apply the PRINCIPLES to the PARTICULARS and PRACTICE of our contemporary situation.
*** 1. Husbands and Wives:
* The fundamental truth is that marriage is a partnership of equals. "Headship" means team-leadership. Nowhere is blind, unthinking obedience commanded on the one side and blatant, unfeeling dictatorship or domination commended on the other!
* Biblically the concept of voluntary submission or subordination is not at variance with or in contradiction to the principle of equality of persons. For example we have that within the working relationships of the Godhead - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is One. Each is revered and worshipped as God. Yet Jesus subordinated himself to do the Father's will and work. The Spirit bears witness to Jesus.
* Christian husbands are presented with the model of Jesus as lover and bridegroom - especially in terms of self-giving and the Cross. Headship is presented not as lordship but as saviourhood - cf 5:23. What about spiritual leadership or initiative in the home and family? What has been your experience? * Notice how Paul quotes the Genesis mandate regarding marriage
with the threefold principle of "leaving, cleaving, one flesh". Leaving parents, the "boys" or the "girls"! The new identity and the new priority. Need for real quality time even in midst of two careers, or growing family, or diverse social interests!
*** 2. Parents and Children:
* What do the words "obey" and "honour" signify in our contemporary society within the family life? NOT that children should have their spirits broken or be cowed whether by violent actions or violent words. Childhood is a growing time, leading through puberty to youth and adulthood. It is a time of training and development from the stage when obedience should be expected through the years of lessening dependency and growing initiative and independence to adulthood and hopefully maturity and full independence. [Grandparents need to remember different generations have different ideas!] Are we honouring our parents if we treat them as mere providers of everything and home as a personal motel with all services laid on?
* What does the "promise" signify today? What relationship should independent, mature adult children have with their parents? Parents aren't perfect either! We all have failings and faults.
* The attitude of fathers or mothers - parents - should be so to speak and act that they do not "exasperate" their children. The RSV speaks of provoking them to anger. The LB speaks of nagging them into anger and resentment. As parents are careful to offer and provide true security - not in things, in money or possessions, but in love expressed, trust, encouragement, etc.
* This also includes role-modelling the Christian life - "bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord". Guiding and encouraging them - not letting them see the fear or panic we get into at times! It means constantly committing them to the Lord in everything. Grandparent role?
*** 3. Masters and Slaves [Employers/Employees]:
* Remember the slave in the Greek/Roman society of the first century was regarded as merely a living tool - at the absolute disposal of the owner who could even put him/her to death at his whim. We have come a long way since then.
* How might we describe the Christian expectation of the paid employee? How does whole-hearted service, honest dealing and loyalty sound to you? Putting in our best endeavours - not the least we can get away with. "As if you were serving the Lord, not men"! If we really applied that day by day, what would happen to the "That's good enough!" attitude?
* What about executives or employers? Right attitudes surely include integrity, loyalty, fairness, justice, proper concern for people. We are not just cogs in the machine of industry or ciphers on the books of big business or faceless creatures serving the corporate giant. Remember your fairy tales - giants destroyed or devoured people!
*** 4. Leaders and Members:
* Throughout the New Testament it is clear churches should have appropriate leadership. Such leadership is not domination of the body by an individual however gifted - ie servant-leadership.
* Do we expect our leaders to be examples - that they model the life of faith for us. Paul can remind Timothy:"You know who your teachers were..." and speak of their personal integrity and fidelity to Christ and his way. In fact, however uncomfortable it may be, it is laid down as a requirement for leadership.
* Do we expect our leaders to be people perceptive in spiritual things, seeking a vision then setting the direction, and indicating the waymarks by plotting the goals? We want them to share the vision, to motivate service and to encourage ministry.
* Paul uses two interesting figures for leadership. Architect or "the wise master builder" in 1 Cor.3; "steersman" in 1Cor.12:28. The master builder requires a gang of workmen to complete the task of erecting the building, many of them with their own particular skills; while the steersman of the Roman galley requires the crew to get the ship to its proper destination.
* Peter Wagner talks about the fine art of follower-ship - which requires commitment, time, training, prayerfulness, co-operation, loyalty and appreciation of what it means to belong to the people of God in contributing to the life of the Body as well as receiving!
"EPHESIANS: Letter of the Church"
11 "Danger - Saints at War!"
Reading : Ephesians 6 : 10 - 20
* Introduction: Some years ago an English Christian writer, the late Jean Rees, published a book entitled:"Danger - Saints at Work!" It was humorous though devastating look at well-intentioned amateurism in Christian service. This passage makes plain we have to be seriously prepared for battle! The "finally" of verse 10 indicates, not "in conclusion", but rather "hence forward" or "from now on". Paul is telling us spiritual battle is to be expected. It is the norm. If we are experiencing the blessings of God, be prepared for the buffettings of the enemy! If we are moving forward with God then be prepared for resistance and counter-attack from Satan.
*** 1. Disciplined for Battle!:
* It is all part of our attitude. Remember the WW2 song "This is the Army Mr Jones"? Definitely no private rooms or telephones and certainly no breakfast in bed! Athletes talk of psyching themselves up for a major race or event - getting into the right mental attitude. The average Christian is mentally and spiritually unprepared for war. We need to "gird up the loins of your mind"
* The prophetic admonition was: "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion!" Amos 6:1[KJV] or as the NIV has it "complacent in Zion". This is true both as regards our personal discipleship and our corporate fellowship and service in relation to the world. Our Christian experience and life has become :
# comfortable - easy - no cross or sacrifice
# cushioned - insulated from real world
# complacent - indifference rather than conviction or passion
# conformable - let the world mold us or set our agenda
# compromising - taking the line of least resistance,
* We need to be reminded of Paul's words to the gentle, somewhat timorous Timothy, "endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" 2Tim.2:3[NIV]. Does "church" have any resemblance to the training camp to prepare battle-ready troops, an assault corps which can take on anything the enemy puts up against them? Most believers scarcely realise there's a war going on around them - never mind that they are part of it and caught up in it whether they like it or not! Discipline is called for. It's time to toughen up. In war people sacrifice and make do with less than they have been used to. What hardship or privation are we going through or enduring / putting up with for the sake of final victory or promoting the cause at the frontline? What are our priorities?
*** 2. Dressed for Battle!:
* We need the resources of the Spirit. Look again at 2 Cor. 10:4f. Isn't that how we are supposed to cope - and conquer - in the whole realm of our thinking and imagination, not so much as a matter of will or holy resolve but of the warfare of the Spirit, in the power and with the weapons of the Spirit!
* Why should this be? Our passage in Ephesians 6 spells it out for us. See verse 12 - "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". Now that's not ghouls and ghosties, but spiritual reality. That's why the world is enslaved by the evil one - the seeming illogicality of people loving darkness rather than light, of why horrendous things can be done or claimed in the name of freedom or "my rights"!
* It means - day by day - we must put on God's splendid armour. Literally, deliberately, consciously we must set it in place:
# Belt of truth - authentic commitment
# Breastplate of righteousness - what Christ has done.
# Shoes of the Gospel - for hard, fast marching
# the shield of faith - protects one another too
# the helmet of salvation - our full salvation
# the sword of the Spirit - cf "It is written"
*** 3. Determined in Battle!:
* Notice the repeated use of the military metaphor to "stand" which refers to standing up to and holding out against the determined and repeated onslaughts of the foe. We need to match the resolution, the commitment and the determination of the enemy. Not in our own strength, but by being "strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" 
# "take your stand against the devil's schemes" Remember he uses both force and fraud, he seeks both to devour and to deceive/delude, he uses both crack assault troops and the insidious fifth column [the enemy within the gates]. We need to remember he has an extensive "dirty tricks" department full of all manner of satanic stratagems.
# "when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground"  The purpose of "the full armour of God" [cf. "the full spiritual blessing" of 1:3] is that we might be comprehensively and thoroughly equipped to stand and to withstand - to persevere when the particular time of personal, family or congregational testing/difficulty/trial or affliction comes upon us! "When things are at their worst" - so NEB!
# "and after you have done everything, to stand" or, as GNB says, "after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground". The struggle is unremitting - no "time out!"
* The repeated use of the word "against" in verse 12 emphasizes not only how intense the struggle is, but how personal it is. It speaks of strenuous, hand-to-hand combat We come in for our share of blood, sweat and tears. Because it is conflict, battle and warfare there are casualties: hurts, wounds, scars and pain not just coming to others, but to ourselves.
* Are we taking our place in the overall battle-plan? At times where we are in the Kingdom's ventures is the frontline position and we are in direct contact with the enemy. Sometimes we are servicing, supplying or assisting those more directly involved in the battle. Other times we are part of the medical units to bring healing and wholeness after the toll and ravages of warfare.
"EPHESIANS: The Letter of the Church"
12. "Effective, Prevailing Prayer"
Reading : Ephesians 6: 10 - 20
* Introduction: John MacArthur in his commentary says: "Ephesians begins by lifting us up to the heavenlies, and ends by pulling us down to our knees". Notice that prayer not only relates to "spirituality" or "the devotional life", but to warfare - cf 6:12! Verse 18 gives us a sharp, succinct summary of what our prayer strategy ought to be. At the very least, it is a real reminder that we ought to be taking prayer seriously. It calls up the word of Jesus to the disciples regarding watchfulness and prayerfulness - "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation". Notice the impact of the repeated use of the little word "all".
*** 1. Pray all the time!:
* How do we actually put that into effect? Look at 5:20. I think it is the same kind of principle.
* It has to do with a mind-set of the Spirit as Romans 8:5-8 puts it, an inner homing signal that keeps us on the right track, or the compass needle that always swings to point north.
* Pray constantly and continuously in all kinds of situations and activities - approach them in a prayerful attitude - whether it is work, Christian service, recreation, family responsibilities. Bring them all to the throne of grace.
*** 2. Pray all the time in the Spirit!:
* What does it mean to "pray in the Spirit"? Is that the same as praying in tongues? Some might lean to that interpretation, but that is not what is intended here I think. The reference to "always" rules it out.
* At the very least it includes "praying in line or in harmony with the Spirit's wishes". Look up James 4:2,3. In order to be in line with the Spirit's wishes we need to be listening to God. So often we are too busy speaking to God, telling Him what we want Him to be doing in the world, when we ought to be listening to Him speaking to us! At the close of all the letters to the seven churches in Rev.2 and 3 the same thing is stated: "Listen to what the Spirit is saying .....!" That brings us to the dimension of communion with God and that takes real time commitment.
* I think praying in the Spirit identifies the need to pray at the deepest level of our personalities and consciousness, rather than merely at the superficial. For me, that brings us back to Romans 8:26 again - Look it up! Cf. Psalm 42:7; 27:8.
*** 3. Pray with all Prayer and Supplication!:
* We need to use the full range and variety of our prayer resources appropriate to the circumstances or situation.
* ADORATION prayers - centring in on who God is and on all He has done: his greatness, goodness, grace, holiness, love, truth, righteousness, justice. Use the psalms - or your hymnbook - speak them out or sing!
* CONFESSION prayers - acknowledging our own sinfulness, failure, weakness, inability in ourselves to fulfil his work.
* THANKSGIVING prayers - praising the Lord and giving him glory for what He is doing in us, among us, for us and through us.
* SUPPLICATION prayers - specific petitions and intercessions for people, situations, programmes, projects, opportunities, needs; for ourselves, our friends, our families, our colleagues, our church, our country or the world.
* Remember prayers can be for a long time or a short time. As well as laying the whole situation out before the Lord - like King Hezekiah with his letter, there are also brief, short, pointed "arrow" prayers. Peter cried out:"Lord, save me!" Nehemiah prayed: "But now, O God, strengthen thou my hands". That's appropriate for emergencies or for difficult situations.
*** 4. Pray with all Perseverance!:
* Notice how the perseverance is linked directly to keeping alert / watchfulness. Not only is prayerfulness commended - it is commanded. Do we stick with prayer? Do we hang in there? Whether in terms of our own devotional life or in the corporate life of prayer of the local church or group? Do we begin well - then fade out?
* The Bible actually speaks a lot about perseverance. Remember Galatians 6:9? I like the very apt LB version of Colossians 4:3: "Don't be weary in prayer; keep at it; watch for God's answers and remember to be thankful when they come". Our persistence in prayer is actually encouraged as we keep looking out for God's answers. Others are encouraged to pray as as we testify to God's faithfulness in answering our prayers.
* Perseverance is encouraged precisely because of the difficulty. It is part of our "enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ" in that discipline is involved. The enemy is not going to make it easy for us to pray. We won't like to leave our warm bed. There will be a good programme on TV or a good book to read, or something REALLY important which must be done, or we'll get around to it later!
*** 5. Pray for all the Saints!:
* Again, realise this is not an option but a solemn obligation. Do you remember the words of Samuel the prophet: "As for me, far be it from me to sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you" [1.Sam.12:23NIV].
* Consider how frequently Paul assured the recipients of his letters that he was praying for them. - Phil.1:3 "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy..."
* This means that we are seeking to bear up before God not only those whom we know need our prayers, but also those whom we might consider not to be in particular difficulty. We need to pray for one another. We all need the shield and covering of one another's faith.
* We can be organised - by having prayer lists to be used daily, or worked through weekly or monthly according to our routine. Admittedly we cannot pray for everything or everyone, but we have have causes and people we identify with. There can be spontaneity by means of the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Never disregard it or ignore it. Follow it!