Followers of God
The opening verse of today's chapter has a clear and clarion call to the children of God. It is something that we may not sidetrack or push aside. We need to face it clearly, positively, and without reservation. Two things are definitely before us.
1. Are we willing to be followers of God? We put it with a question mark because we want you to consider it thoughtfully, and fully, then make your decision.
(1) Some things which are entailed in following Christ. If we would follow Christ we must put Him above everything, and everyone else. He cannot take the second place. You all remember how the Lord Jesus said, If any man will come after Me, let him leave his father and mother, etc.
There is no possibility of giving even those dearest and nearest to us preference over Christ. There was a certain man, who said, "I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." The Lord Jesus immediately put it up squarely to him, because the young man added, "But let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house." He was immediately rebuked by the Master, as Christ said, "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
There was another to whom Christ said, "Follow me." This one said, "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father." Unto him Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God."
If we would become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be willing to endure hardships, and to go with Him outside the camp bearing His reproach. To one who had said "I will follow thee whithersoever Thou goest," the Lord immediately replied, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head."
If we would follow Christ there is something that goes still deeper, perhaps, when giving Christ supremacy over father and mother, and over deprivations and sacrifices. Christ plainly stated to one that if he would follow Him, he must hate his own life also. To become followers of God, we must do as the apostle Paul did, give those cherished ambitions which would accrue to our own glory. The apostle Paul said, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss, for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ."
Are we willing to say what Paul said in order that we may become followers of God? We grant that there are many things which would be gain by following Christ, but the gain lies in the realm of the spiritual. The losses lie in the realm of the temporals.
(2) Some things which are achieved by following Christ. There is a little verse in Revelation fourteen where it speaks of one hundred and forty-four thousand who were undefiled. Then it says, "These are they which follow the Lamb, whithersoever He goeth." We take it, therefore, that those who are following Him outside the camp, hearing His shame and stigma and reproach, will follow Him over in glory.
In other words those who suffer with Him, will also reign with Him. If we bear the Cross, we will wear the crown. Thus, to become the follower of God means not merely giving up this, or that; it means not merely, "In the world ye shall have tribulation"; it also means that we shall be recognized in the glory, we shall have God's "well done," and we shall rule and reign with Him.
2. Are we willing to walk in love? This is the statement which opens verse two. It is a tremendous word. "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor."
At first thought, anybody would want to say, "Of course I'm willing to walk in love, because I love Him." You cry out, "How could I help but love the One who loved me?" Yes, we know this, but our verse says we are to walk in love, as Christ loved us. Then, it tells us that He gave Himself upon the Cross to die for us.
The call is plain and simple. To walk in love means to follow Christ, if needs be, even unto death. The apostle Paul did not hesitate to do, this. He said, "I am now ready to be offered." Everything in his life proved this, his great climactic statement. He could truly say, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ." The stigmas and the scars he gladly took for Christ. Are we ready to walk in love that love which leads to glory by the way of the Cross? Are we ready to go with Him into the throes of His poverty? Are we willing to go with Him through the buffetings, the spitings, and the strifes?
I. AS FOLLOWERS OF GOD THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS TO FOREGO (Ephesians 5:3-7 )
1. God's picture of the unregenerate. Our Lord never gave a rosy picture of sinners in their sins, nor of the sins of the sinners. When we think of "Pilgrim's Progress" we think of bypaths with beautiful swards of green, flower-covered and perfumed. Into such paths the travelers toward the heavenly city were invited. Before them the heavenly road appeared so rugged, so rough, and so steep, that it seemed far better to travel to the left or to the right.
That is the way that the devil delights in picturing the paths of the world. He even dared, in showing them to Christ, to portray the glories of earth's kingdoms. When God talks of these things however, He talks in plain positive language. What the world might call "Vanity Fair," with everything that attracts the flesh, and the carnal mind, God calls, "Fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness." Then He goes on in verse four, and calls it "filthiness, and foolish talking, and jesting." It is these things that the followers of God must avoid.
Has not the Lord said that none of these, the unclean, the covetous, and the idolater have any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God? How then, can those who follow God, walk in them?
Has God not said, "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience"? We, therefore, who follow God, dare not walk in earth's bypaths which lead to destruction.
2. God's call to the saints. This call is given in verse seven, "Be not ye therefore partakers with them." The language is plain and positive. It is just another way of saying, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord." When we think of thousands, in our churches, living as the world lives, doing what the world does, we cannot but speak of them as, "Disobedient children." They are dear to the heart of God, but they have not yet learned what it is to be followers of God. Dare we take the body of Christ, and make it the companion of a harlot? God says unto us, "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."
II. FOLLOWERS OF GOD SHOULD REMEMBER WHAT WE WERE, WHAT WE ARE IN CHRIST, HOW WE SHOULD WALK (Ephesians 5:8-12 )
1. What we were. The opening statement of verse eight reads, "For ye were sometimes darkness." It does not say that we were walking in the darkness, but we were darkness. We had partaken of the nature of our environment. We dwelt in darkness and we became darkened in our mind. We were darkness, because in us there was no light; he who followed our footsteps, walked in the ways of death.
2. What we are. The same verse says, "But now are ye light in the Lord." When we became saved we passed from darkness into light, from death into life. This is somewhat similar to the second chapter of Ephesians. A sixfold description is given of what we were in the days of our darkness and sin. Then we read, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, * * hath quickened us together with Christ, * * hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places." That is the meaning of being the light in the Lord.
3. How we should walk.
(1) Positively speaking, we should walk in the Spirit; for, "The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth; proving what is acceptable unto the Lord." That is the way the children of the light should walk. They should always do the things that please Him. Goodness, and righteousness, and truth, should clothe them. The more we study the Word of God, the more do we realize the great privileges and possibilities of the Christian life. We fear that many have never known the good things that are ours in Christ Jesus.
(2) Negatively speaking, we should "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." Let us not weaken God's statement. Verse eleven says positively and plainly, "Have no fellowship." In other words there is no halfway ground. Our separation must be clean, and distinct, and once and for all. Having come out of the world, and its darkness, how can we have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. God has said, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Verse twelve tells us that it is even a shame to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. What right do we have to talk about the works of darkness? Those works are unfruitful and altogether foreign to the fruit of the Spirit.
III. FOLLOWERS OF GOD SHOULD FOLLOW AFTER THE THINGS WHICH ARE APPROVED OF GOD (Ephesians 5:13-17 )
1. The things which are approved of God are those which are made manifest by the light. They are the things that inhabit the light, that dwell in the light, that enjoy the light. If you would go out into your yard on a summer day and lift up a board, you would find that the bugs that inhabit the darkness would run in all directions when the light shines in.
The things which inhabit darkness; in other words, the works of darkness, are distinct and opposite to the things that inhabit life; that is, the things that are the works of light. Did you ever go into a home and as you approached you heard a scuffling within, and you well knew that they were hiding away their cards and several other articles all of which are the works of darkness.
You were a child of the light, and they didn't want you to see that they walked in the shadows. Perhaps they had often boastfully said, "We are the children of the light." But the epistle of John said, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." But, "If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth."
You know, as well as I, that God is light, "And in Him is no darkness at all." Therefore we ask, what fellowship hath light with darkness? If you answer there is no fellowship, then we reply, "Let us leave the paths of darkness, and walk in the light."
2. Some special admonitions to those who walk in light.
(1) Verse fourteen gives the first admonition." Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Those that sleep, sleep in the night, and therefore God wants us to wake up. Whenever we think of death we think of darkness and of gloom. Therefore, our Lord says, "Arise from the dead." In I Thessalonians five, we read; "For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunk in the night." But let us, who are of the day, be sober." If we are the children of the light, we are not of the night nor of the darkness.
(2) Verse fifteen gives the second admonition. It reads thus, "See then that ye. walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time." The word circumspectly means that we should walk looking around us, permitting" no evil to overtake us. As children of the day we should not walk as fools but as wise. There is no time for us to waste. The daytime is time for work, for service, and for labor. Let us therefore redeem the time. We must do this as wise, not as unwise; but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
IV. FOLLOWERS OF GOD SHOULD BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT (Ephesians 5:18-20 )
1. A striking analogy. Verse eighteen reads like this: "And be not drunk with wine wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." You remember how, at Pentecost, the people cried out, "These men are full of new wine." Peter immediately replied out, "These are are not drunken * * but this is that which is spoken by the Prophet Joel; * * I will pour out in those days of my Spirit." There is, evidently, an analogy, therefore, between being drunk with wine, and being filled with the Spirit. When intoxicated the whole being is dominated by the wine; when filled with the Spirit, the whole being is dominated from above.
2. A distinction between having the Spirit, and being filled with the Spirit. All believers are indwelt by the Holy Guest; that is by the Spirit of God. It is written, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."
Again, it is written, "And because ye are sons, God hath, sent forth the Spirit of His son into your hearts."
It is, however, one thing to have the Spirit in the throne room, that is in the heart; and, it is an entirely different thing to have the Spirit on the throne. We believe that the filling of the Spirit, is a very definite thing, not true in the lives of the majority of believers. God would not say to the saints, "Be filled with the Spirit," if all saints were already filled.
3. The results of being filled with the Spirit. Of course, as the book of Galatians records, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc. Ephesians, however, in verses nineteen and twenty, speaks of but one thing joy. Here's the way the verse reads: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."
The Spirit-filled life is a songful life. It does not mean that all the Spirit-filled will become proficient in singing, so far as tone qualities are concerned, for the singing is not half so much with the voice, as with the heart. Verse twenty suggests that the Spirit-filled life is always giving thanks, and giving thanks in all things, unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
V. THE FOLLOWERS OF GOD SHOULD SUBMIT THEMSELVES ONE TO ANOTHER (Ephesians 5:21-24 )
1. Wives should submit themselves unto their own husbands, as unto the Lord. The next verse gives the reason for this commanded submission. "For the husband is the head of the wife." It is for this cause that the wife should be subject unto her husband in everything. We know in the twentieth century these divine instructions are not accepted. However, they are commanded from above.
Do not think for a moment that wives are supposed to submit themselves unto ungodly husbands; for wives are not supposed to have ungodly husbands. God says, "It is permitted unto a woman to marry only in the Lord." When a woman has a husband who is in the Lord, she will find no difficulty in this commanded submission.
2. The church should submit itself unto Christ. We spoke a moment ago of an analogy between being drunk with wine, and being drunk with the Spirit. We now have an analogy between wives being in subjection to their husbands, and the church being in subjection to Christ.
It is folly to argue that the lot of a wife is difficult and hard, and that when she gets married she debases herself by taking upon her a yoke of obedience to her husband. Has any one ever imagined that the church is debased by taking upon itself obedience to its head, even to Christ?
The Lord said very positively: "Take My yoke upon you." He added, however, most assuringly, "For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." When a woman is in subjection to her husband as a slave is in subjection to a tyrannical master, that is one thing; however, when a woman is in subjection to her husband, as the church is unto Christ, that is another thing. Christ, the head of the church, is also its Saviour, as well as its Lord.
In the book of Revelation, the Lord said unto the church at Ephesus, "Thou hast left thy first love." What Christ wanted of the Ephesian church was love; love more than service, love more than anything else; and that is what the husband wants of his wife. Not merely her obedience, or her service; he wants her love.
VI. AS FOLLOWERS OF GOD HUSBANDS SHOULD LOVE THEIR WIVES (Ephesians 5:25-29 )
1. The love of the husband for his wife should be on equality with the love of Christ for the church. Verse twenty-five says, "Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it." When a husband, therefore, truly loves his wife, he is willing to give all that he is, and all that he has for her. The church is Christ's "pearl of great price," and for that pearl He sold all He had, to buy it. So is the wife the husband's pearl of great price, and he bought her, not with silver and gold, but at the price of giving her his own being, his all.
2. The marriage bond includes the presentation of the bride to the bridegroom. That is a glorious day when two hearts, who know God and love one another, take their vows. It is the man who first approaches the altar, and then the bride comes up the aisle and is presented to the bridegroom by her father, or some one else in lieu of the father. The Lord in our chapter, uses this beautiful scene, as suggestive of the hour when the church, having been sanctified and cleansed, by the washing of water by the Word, shall be presented unto Him as a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
3. Even so ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. We realize, through the study of the word of God, that a man who loveth his wife loveth himself. This is true, "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh." The wife is his own flesh, therefore he should nourish and cherish her, even as the Lord nourishes and cherishes the church.
It is wonderful how God used, early in His ministry, a marriage at Cana of Galilee as the place where He wrought His first miracle. It is wonderful to us indeed, that God uses the marriage bond, as an emblem of Himself and His church. All of this puts around the marriage altar a hallo of glory, of purity, and of love. There is nothing in the marriage bonds, upon which to jest; it is something which should be entered, under the guiding touch of the Holy Spirit Himself.
Having gone thus far in this study; the sublimity of God's command to the wife to submit herself unto her own husband, radiates with Shekinah glory. The words of Ephesians 5:24, are written to Christian women, and to Christian men. The marriage vow between two saints, is infinitely higher and holier than that between those who marry after the flesh.
VII. FOLLOWERS OF GOD FIND A NEW INCENTIVE IN GOD'S CALL TO SEPARATE (Ephesians 5:30-33 )
1. A journey into the garden of Eden. To us, one of the marvels of Scripture is found in the verses we now consider. It is necessary to go into the garden of Eden to correctly judge their values. After God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone, we remember that He put him to sleep, opened his side, and from his side he took a rib, and with the rib He made a woman.
Then, God took the woman, and presented her unto the man. When Adam beheld the woman he said, "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man." Then Adam continued and said, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh." Let us now return to our verses in Ephesians. We read, "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." The quotation we note is almost exact with the words spoken by Adam.
2. A journey to the Cross. It was upon the Cross, that Christ was put to sleep in a substitutionary death. His side, too, was opened, and His bride was formed. This bride, the church is also His body, His flesh, and His bone. If you say this is a great mystery, we say it is Christ and the church. It was Christ and the church, in the garden of Eden; it is Christ and the church, in every Christian marriage. All is typical.
3. The divine call for separation. Ephesians 5:31 gives us this call. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife." Is it too much to ask a wife to leave all others, to go with her husband? Is it too much to ask her to leave her father, her mother, her home, to go with her husband, to establish a new home? Too much? Never! This is the only road to happiness and peace and prosperity in married life.
Is it too much for Christ to ask His bride to-be to leave father, and mother, and sister, and brother, and houses, and land, and everything else to follow after Him? It is the only thing that He can ask. There is a little verse in James where it says, "Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" The verse means that the Holy Spirit desires to have us holy for Himself, and that is the reason why we are asked to leave all, and become followers of God as dear children.
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter