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Section Seven: 4:1-16
4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
Paul introduces this section by reminding them again of his prisonerhood. It might be a little emphasis on the request he makes of them - I, a prisoner, am living worthily of my calling, so you should also be able to do the same. Under any circumstance, live as you ought.
The believer now has the background to know who He is in Christ and now Paul wants them - begs them to walk worthily of their calling. Almighty God called them so they should walk worthily as one of God’s called, as one of God’s saved and as one of God’s children.
Now, it isn’t an easy road to walk - to walk worthily of such a calling. It isn’t easy to live like a Christian, it isn’t easy to live like we ought, but we ought.
The term "vocation" can also be translated "calling." It is translated "calling" in Philippians 3:14 "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Calling or vocation is that which we occupy ourselves with as a human being. This calling or vocation is that which we as believers are to be occupied with - our Christian life.
There was a man that wrote a book many years ago entitled "THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE." I don’t ascribe to all that Watchman Nee wrote, but he had a fair handle on how a believer was to live his life before God and before man. I won’t go into detail, but let me say that his concept was quite counter to all that I see in the church today. It was all about God and nothing about self. It was all about glorification of God and nothing about glorification of self. It was all about living a God honoring life, and nothing about living for one’s self.
His thought was that this was the NORMAL Christian life, not what we see so often today.
The term "called" is in the passive voice showing that this calling was from without, from outside the person - in other words we are speaking of the calling of God that we all have. This calling, from the context, would most likely be the call unto salvation as well as the call to sonship in the family of God.
It may also relate to the call of God upon a man/woman for ministry. A wise man once said, know that you are called and know unto what you are called. Both are very important. God may give you a general call to prepare and then a specific call later or both at once but be sure that you know that it was God that called you and not pride, self or any of those other problem children.
It also relates to the general calling of life to walk with Him and to follow His leading in your life. We will see this in a moment.
You can be sure that a call from God will be in keeping with the Word of God. He will not call a woman to preach nor a man to adultery. So many today see most anything as a call from God, but when compared to the Word the call is lacking.
The call is the outworking of His purpose for your life. He has a plan for you and if it includes the ministry He will then call you to that ministry. If you do not feel that you have been called, then you most likely are not. He will make it definite and He will make it clear.
I was sitting in the Bible college coffee shop many years ago when a man came in. There was a large map of the world on the wall. The man walked to the map and started his first conversation with me with the words, "God called me to the Indians that live right there." He pointed to an area in South America and he knew the tribe’s name. He was clear that he was called to be a missionary and he was clear as to where he was to go. I have seen this clarity in many people’s lives over the years and it is of great joy to witness such surety of mind and call.
Now, more specifically, the text is a general statement to all believers at Ephesus. All are called to a vocation in a sense. We are all, no matter what we do in life, are called to that vocation by God. This goes for the CEO of a large corporation, and it goes for a Maintenance Technician (janitor). It relates to both of the mentioned people and all those between; anyone in the place of employment, service or work that is working with and for God.
Think of that. If you are a seamstress, you are there at the behest of God. If you are an appliance repairman, you are there at the behest of God. If you are a teacher, you are there at the behest of God. No matter what you do in life you do it because God called you to it. He planned it and He brought it to pass.
Now, consider that when you are upset with your station in life, when you wish you were doing something else, when you think you are better than your job - you are telling God He made a mistake and YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO DO THAT DO YOU?
This is why you ought to pray daily that you fulfill His plan for your life in that job or position. Ask that you will do a good job for Him in your daily life.
This is another reason why we should start the day out with a word of prayer, asking for strength, direction and wisdom for the day that He has made.
1. We spoke to the tossing around of false doctrines, and in James we are given a little insight into this. James 1:6 "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." Lack of faith also can result in being tossed around. Having a strong faith and holding to truth in maturity go hand in hand. We have little faith when first born again, but as we learn of God and what He has told us we will gain in faith and knowledge becoming more solid in our living and doctrine.
The James test is in the context of asking for wisdom. Lack of wisdom causes one to be tossed like a wave, and in Ephesians lack of teaching or maturity causes the same. Wisdom and maturity seem quite closely related. Maturity brings wisdom in most cases, and wisdom can be a sign of maturity.
2. In verse two we saw the word "meekness." The Net Bible note states that this was used in classical Greek of the execution of justice upon one that has no say, by one that has authority over him and ability to give forth justice.
They further suggest that "forbearing" could be translated "put up with."
These suggestions might indicate that the leadership is to put up with the rest as one having authority, however I am not sure of their definitions. From the lexicon "meekness" seems to relate more to what we have already discussed, but the "put up with" is certainly a modern use of the word of forbearing.
In 1 Corinthians 4:21 meekness is contrasted with coming with a rod. This would indicate lowliness rather than an authority. In 1 Corinthians 10:1 it speaks to the meekness of Christ. Seldom did we see any showing of justice/authority in His earthly ministry. In Galatians 5:23 meekness is listed among the fruit of the Spirit, again a showing of authority by giving out justice does not fit well. (See also: Galatians 6:6 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." - Colossians 3:12 "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;" - 1 Timothy 6:11 "But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." - 2 Timothy 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;" (this has some authority, but not the thought of giving forth of justice.) - Titus 3:2 "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, [but] gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.")
I think the gentle side of meekness seems to be the thought and usage of the Scripture, though we know that Christ did exert his authority and give out a little justice to the money changers in the temple, so the authority/justice, might be related in some contexts.
3. In relation to verse four Jamieson, Fausset and Brown mention, ""In essentials, unity; in doubtful questions, liberty; in all things, charity." There is more real unity where both go to heaven under different names than when with the same name one goes to heaven, the other to hell." (They do not footnote their quote. I think it relates back to their use of the Apostle’s Creed in an earlier portion.)
Please consider this more than a moment or two. The last phrase is quite appropriate today in that many in the reformed community would label those that reject total Calvinism as lost and hell bound. This is not right, nor even logical since we all approach Christ for salvation - they just don’t feel the rest of us approach him with correct knowledge of their system so we cannot really understand our approach. Only they know the truth and only they can really be saved.
The first phrase "In essentials, unity; in doubtful questions, liberty; in all things, charity." is not being adhered to in many churches these days. If you don’t agree with every item ever spoken by the pastor, you are not spiritual and in danger.
I must submit that no pastor is above question, no pastor knows all truth, and no pastor ought to live his life as though he does. The essentials of salvation are the unifying basis of the church universal, but when it comes to other doctrines, there should be freedom to differ without separation from.
These problems mentioned are probably a good portion of the problem of evangelism today. We could do so much if we were out preaching the message of Christ rather than our denominational rhetoric. We are called to preach the gospel to the world not divide them up into denominational structures.
4. In a little application of the gifts mentioned I would like to consider the evangelist and the pastor-teacher. I would submit that not only is the evangelist to be training people to witness, but it may be that he is to be a church planter, and he disciples/trains his new converts in the area of evangelism and then the pastor-teacher is one that comes along to train them more completely.
You might consider Paul’s methodology. He would evangelize, plant the church and then move on. In some cases he called or sent men to do the training and organizing of the church (Timothy and Titus)
This might be of use in our own time. I have seen men that can plant a church, move on and plant another etc. I met one that had planted more then twenty churches in his lifetime and was still going strong. I have also seen men that could plant a church but would not move on. Their church usually struggled and died before he would move on. I thought at the time that he was most likely an evangelist and not a pastor-teacher. Had he allowed someone else to come in and nurture the flock it most likely would have prospered.
Why aren’t we using some of these Scriptural principles today? Why don’t we take those that can witness and lead people to Christ and make them church planters. Indeed, why aren’t we planting churches? We see in our day the mega church, those churches that have thousands of members. Why not send out some of those thousands and start dozens of churches in areas where there is no Gospel witness?
5. In verse eight where it mentions the descent, the Net Bible has a lengthy note that is worth looking at for two reasons. First, it shows just how precise the Greek language is when it comes to the Scriptures. Secondly, it gives us two alternate views to the thought of a descent and who it might refer to as well as to what it might refer. The Net Bible states: "The phrase the lower parts of the earth has been variously interpreted: (1) The traditional view understands this as a reference to the underworld (hell), where Jesus is thought to have descended in the three days between his death and resurrection. In this case, of the earth would be a partitive genitive. (2) A second option is to translate the phrase to the lower parts, the earth. Many recent scholars hold this view and argue that it is a reference to the incarnation. In this case of the earth would be a genitive of apposition. (3) A third option which also sees the phrase of the earth as a genitive of apposition, is that the descent in the passage occurs after the ascent rather than before it, and refers to the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost (cf. Acts 4:11-16)."
Notice the Greek language does not interpret the passage for us; the interpretation of the Scripture dictates the language. I trust you see what this note is saying. We can’t know what the structure is, until we interpret the verse. In all of my days we attempted to see what the language told us so that we could interpret the words as they were put down for us. Quite a shift of approach and I think the Net Bible translators might be amiss. I suspect that this is only one of the many failings of the language, or might it be the men that use it and those that have developed it and their uses.
I am not a Greek scholar but I have seen some cases like the above that make me wonder just how precise the language really is. The scholars seem to have precise understanding of the language and how to use it yet, there are times when they seem to show confusion and chaos.
One other example is when Christ uses a present tense when He spoke of the adultery of remarriage. A present tense indicates that the adultery is ongoing, outward sin. The word adultery, itself, indicates this, yet some Greek scholars state that this is really a different tense than a present. They suggest that this type of present tense really isn’t present but past in nature. My, how convenient to change this one present that gives them trouble with their interpretation to a past to eliminate the problem.
Now, if I could figure out how to use that sort of thinking with my bank when my balance is low, I would be in good financial shape.
I might add, that I have asked several Greek scholars if there is anything in the Greek language that would indicate that this type of present tense that really is past really exists. All have said that there is no indication of such a tense.
So, I guess that is why, when I hear a "Greek scholar" telling me a passage doesn’t really mean what it says because of the Greek, I am very skeptical. I won’t, out of hand, reject what is said, but I will dig deeper on my own and see if there is validity in the Word to support his thinking.
There is also another possibility as to what descent means here. Constable suggests it is Christ’s descent into His own grave. I am not sure this is a widely held view, nor does it fit the context in my thinking.
Secondly, we have the possibility of the descent referring to Christ going down to hell (Sheol to be more specific - hell in many people’s minds is the final repose of the lost and Sheol is not.) Or it may refer the Christ descending to earth as a baby, and thirdly it may refer to the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the people on the day of Pentecost.
I have submitted that it is Christ’s descent into Sheol to lead the Old Testament righteous into the presence of God. Let’s reread the passage and draw out the main points that must be matched: "7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)"
a. grace (gifts) were given
b. grace given according to the gift of Christ
c. he ascended up on high
d. he led captivity captive
e. gifts given to men
f. he also descended first
g. descent was to the lower parts of the earth
h. he ascended up far above all heavens
I. he ascended that he might fill all things
This is the criteria set forth by Scripture. Let’s consider the possibilities.
A. Gifts were given by the Spirit elsewhere in the Scripture, however these four gifts seem somewhat isolated from the others. Here we have gifts that are for the founding of the church while the others seem more for the ministering to the church (though prophecy is seen in both areas). Could it be that these gifts are given by Christ for the founding of His church? The fact that they are given according to the gift of Christ.
B. He ascended - this seems to be first in position - we have no indication that the Spirit "ascended" before he "descended" on the day of Pentecost. Nor, do we have any basis to say that Christ "ascended" before He "descended" as a baby. Indeed, He was up and down in the Old Testament so this ascent would need to be something specific to His time on earth if not specific to His final days on earth.
The ascent is easiest explained if it is Christ ascending to the heavenly holy or holies that Hebrews speaks about - that time after He spoke to the woman and said that he had not ascended to the father.
C. "He lead captivity captive" could relate to the Spirit leading the lost into freedom, however this does not fit in that the people on Pentecost were not lost - they were believers before the Spirit descended. Nor, did Christ lead anyone anywhere in his incarnation. It was in His work on the cross that He made provision for the lost to come to Him.
D. The descent was to the lower parts of the earth, not just to the earth. This would indicate something other than coming as a baby or as the Spirit did on Pentecost.
E. The ascent was that He might fill all things. How does that relate to the Spirit coming on Pentecost? It does not. Further the ascent was "on high" and was "up far above all heavens," which doesn’t seem to relate to anything we know of the Spirit’s activities.
F. It is true that Christ in his humanity could fit into the phrase "he might fill all things" but again, how does the Spirit fit into this phrase? The easiest fit is Christ finishing his cross work and sitting down by the Father.
Christ’s descent into Sheol, Christ’s descent into manhood, or the Holy Spirit’s descent into man? It seems to me that the Lord’s descent into Sheol fits most perfectly while the other two seem a very poor fit if not to be likened to square pegs in round holes.
6. In this whole text of unity and of gifts there is a topic I would like to raise. I trust this will be thought provoking rather than anger provoking. Take time to consider what is said before judging the messenger.
I recently saw a television show on "Faith and Values" where a Muslim was being interviewed. He made two points that seem to relate not only to Islam but to Christianity. He pointed out first that in Islam there has developed a clerical class supported by the common person. This class now has power and control over Islam. The clerics are now the gateway to Islam and the common man cannot come to Islam except through the gate of the clerics.
Secondly, he mentioned that the Americans seek to improve their children’s lot in life, whereas in Islam they seek the improvement of their brother. He went on to say that we need to do both.
My comments relate to the lay/cleric class of today. I am not speaking of the Roman hierarchy which is obviously the gate way to God, but I speak to the paid pastor class of Christianity. We, as lay people, have given over all things to that clerical class that we pay to do all the work. If there is anything to be gained from the church it comes through the cleric. If anyone is going to be saved, it is to be done by the cleric. This is the whole emphasis of the "WORSHIP" service of today in most churches. The people bring in the lost so the cleric can do something about their lostness. Are not paid pastors becoming the gateway to Christianity?
It is they that control the schools now days, it is they that control the local church, and it is they that control to a point what we believe.
I just read a pole where the pollster found that if a church was to gain a large amount of money, that the pastors would use it to improve buildings and build new ones. The layman in the pew however would use the money for retiring debt and social programs to assist the lost. Interesting that the clerics don’t know where their people are nor what they feel the church should be. Since all are priests before the Lord it would seem the majority are on a different track than the pastor that should be in tune with the same Spirit that is leading the people. Hummm. Some consideration would be appropriate in my mind.
In a related line of thought, when I had resigned from my teaching position I was accused of teaching like a seminary professor, rather than like a Bible Institute teacher. I would proudly plead guilty to this accusation. The distinction that was being made was that I would take a passage and explain what I thought it meant, I would then suggest what other theologians thought it meant, and then I would explain why I thought their thinking was defective.
The essence being, I knew there were differences of opinion in the minors so I wanted my students to know that these differences existed so that they could come to some common ground with others that they differed with and find commonality around the fundamentals.
The problem was that the Bible Institute teacher teaches a set group of beliefs with no hint that there are other lines of thought in the world. How narrow minded and how dangerous to send new preachers out into the world without warning of what is there.
Much of the reason we have so many denominations and movements is that we can’t accept that someone else might disagree with us on some tiny point.
My wife and I have been looking for a church home. The problem with finding one is that when you think you have come to find a good home the preacher lays out some obscure doctrine and makes a federal case of anyone that might disagree with him. It often becomes a litmus test as to your spirituality.
One such doctrine is the King James Only movement. If you don’t adhere to the "LINE" then you are a heretic if not lost. Another such doctrine is the belief system of the reformed. There is no allowance for difference of opinion because they have the truth and anyone that disagrees with truth is automatically rejected.
This is what Paul is trying to overcome - there is unity - the same God moved in our lives to save us - the same Holy Spirit indwells us, ought there not be some common ground whereby we could understand that we are all believers and a common ground that we could unite on?
This was the glory of the original fundamentalist movement. They came together around the fundamental doctrines and fought the liberal apostasy together.
I would like to close these comments with a quote from Barnes which indicates that this was a problem in his day as well.
"The argument here is, that there ought to be unity among Christians, because they have one Lord and Saviour. They have not different Saviours adapted to different classes; not one for the Jew, and another for the Greek; not one for the rich, and another for the poor; not one for the bond, and another for the free. There is but one. He belongs in common to all as their Saviour; and he has a right to rule over one as much as over another. There is no better way of promoting unity among Christians than by reminding them that they have the same Saviour. And when jealousies and heart-burnings arise; or when they are disposed to contend about trifles; when they magnify un important matters until they are in danger of rending the church asunder, let them feel that they have one Lord and Saviour, and they will lay aside their contentions, and be one again. Let two men, who have never seen each other before, meet in a distant land, and feel that they have the same Redeemer, and their hearts will mingle into one. They are not aliens, but friends. A cord of sympathy is struck more tender than that which binds them to country or home; and though of different nations, complexions, or habits, they will feel that they are one. Why should contentions ever arise between those who have the same Redeemer?"
I might also mention that on the internet the term "fundamentalist" today is usually a word of derision cast to hurt the feelings of anyone that holds to a set of beliefs that they feel is Biblical, just because the beliefs held differ from someone else’s. Do not allow anyone to use the term in such a way, hold them to the historical, good meaning of the word.
7. This passage is one of two great passages relating to the unity of the body of Christ. John seventeen also speaks to this subject quite clearly. Constable correctly relates that God is not in the practice of bringing unity to the body, even if prayer is offered along those lines. It is man’s responsibility to find ways of being at peace with his brothers and sisters in Christ.
Prayer along the lines of asking for the Lord’s help in controlling your feelings, your bias, and your pride would be quite appropriate, but not that God would change that nut to be like you.
Relate this truth to all those prayers you hear from the ecumenical movement - Lord bring us together - NOT! They need to straighten their theology and we need to straighten our attitude toward them and their wrong theology and find some common ground upon which to be brothers - if they are.
8. Okay, it is time for some imagination. Tomorrow morning you wake up and find that the true body of Christ is totally united in one purpose - that of witnessing to the lost of the world. Not only are they united, but they are taught and totally prepared for the ministry of the Lord’s work, and not only that but they are also in conformity with Christ.
Now, that is some big, huge and awesome imagination, but that is what this passage is teaching. We are to be united, we are to be united in the ministry of the church and we are to be conformed to the image of Christ while we are doing all this good stuff.
One must say, "But how?" Remember it is our responsibility to bring unity? Remember it is the churches responsibility to train the people toward maturity? The answer to "But how?" is for you to do your work in your little corner of the world to bring about these things.
It is your responsibility to do all that you can do - it is not your responsibility to bring the unity of the whole world Christian community. As each individual realizes this and begins to work on his/her own responsibility, things will begin to happen in the body of Christ.
9. As one reads this passage the word "but" sticks out like a sore thumb. Paul stresses well the unity of the body BUT Christ gave SOME the gifts of leadership. Now, I am not going to make a large statement on the dictators of American churches and the Scripturalness of them for I do not hold to that vain philosophy. I do want, however, to suggest very strongly as Paul does that we are all equals, we are all one in the body, we are all unified in one grand effort for our God, BUT we must realize that some are set over us to train us to be able to do the work of the Lord, to help us mature to the point where we can stand on our own against the aggressors of our minds - false teaching.
I’m sure that you have met Mr. or Mrs. know it all in some of your travels. That one that has been saved fifteen minutes and knows they are called to preach RIGHT NOW and understands that God has called him to right all the wrongs in the church. NOPE, that ain’t the Scriptural norm according to this text.
We are unified as one, but until we are mature and knowledgeable we must be under the tutorship of those gifted to train us in the ministry of God. Until we are properly matured there is quite a difference between us and the gifted of the church.
This has a couple of applications:
a. The leaders are to do the training as they see fit from their gifting and their approach to the Head of the Church, Christ.
b. The immature or untaught are to be in submission to those that would attempt to prepare them for the ministry that they have in the church.
c. There is assumed from the above, a point of graduation from being the trained to being the minister or even possibly the trainer. There is a point when the taught became educated and mature and at that point it is time for them to move on to other things.
I have seen, so often, a group of mature, knowledgeable people sitting in a Sunday school class being taught by someone that is no higher than they in the maturity/knowledge scale. What a waste, get those people to work in the Sunday school. They have a job to do in the church and it isn’t sitting in a pew. They should be assisting if not running your Sunday school so that those young parents can sit in on the teaching and training that they are desperately in need of receiving.
I was in one church where the adult Sunday school was made up of mostly very mature believers listening to things they had been taught dozens of times before, while in the back there were young couples that have little knowledge of the Word teaching the children.
So, one must wonder, how are the children being taught properly if they are being taught by untaught believers that need to be in the adult class? I seriously question some churches and their methodology. They are shoving those that are tossed to and from into teaching positions where they have no business being. They will only teach the young how to be tossed to and from.
THE GIFT OF PASTOR-TEACHER EXAMINED
Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992
I. THE CONTEXT OF THE GIFT
II. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE GIFT
III. THE MEANING OF THE GIFT
IIII. THE APPLICATION OF THE GIFT
In my early college days the Lord laid it on my heart to prepare for the ministry of teaching at the college level. All of my college and seminary work was aimed toward that time when I would be teaching in a Bible college or Bible Institute. The Lord used a number of things to help me understand that I had the gift of teaching. To begin with, I found that I seemed effective as a teacher with several age groups. Many people responded positively to my ministry and finally there were many that told me they felt that I had the gift of teaching.
I proceeded to pray concerning where the Lord might be able to use me and it seemed obvious that teaching was the area. From that point on I attempted to be involved in that ministry. As time went by, I discovered that the usual college/institute teacher was a pastor that had decided later in life to go into teaching. Many of them as I observed were men that did not do that well in the pastorate.
At one point in my life I was faced with deciding whether I should go into the pastorate. I was not comfortable with doing the work that we normally assign to the pastor. The roll of marrying, counseling, funeraling etc. As I considered these things it crossed my mind that I was certain what a teacher was, but that I was not certain about what a pastor was. As I considered this, a word study about the word "pastor" seemed appropriate.
I. THE CONTEXT OF THE GIFT
The gift is listed in Ephesians four. Please take time to read verses11-16. Notice that the gift of pastor is linked to the gift of teaching. This gift is listed in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, and Ephesians 4:11. We cannot look at the gift of pastor without considering the gift of teaching. Some link these two gifts together showing there is a gift of pastor-teacher and a gift of teaching. The thought being that the pastor of a church should have the gift of pastor-teacher while a teacher would have the gift of teaching.
The text seems to indicate that the Lord gifted different men in different ways. The emphasis is on the man that is gifted in the text. The man that was listed as a pastor also received the gift of teaching. This is not to say that every pastor must have the gift of teacher, only that Christ gifted some with both pastor and teacher. You might wonder why I give emphasis to this. The church is given the gifts that it needs. We have a wrong concept of what the pastor of a church is. Today a pastor is a man that preaches, teaches, counsels, calls, visits, mows lawns, cleans floors, and everything else.
I believe, and I believe that Scripture teaches that this concept is grossly wrong. A pastor is not all of these things. A pastor is a man that has the gift of pastor. This man may be the local undertaker, or the banker, or the butcher. He is a man in the church that can do the work of a pastor. We will look at what I mean as we go along, but we MUST get rid of the thought that the pastor of a church is the man that does everything.
Paul in Ephesians was not trying to say that the pastor-teacher was the head of the physical local assembly. He was telling the Ephesians that the Lord had given some men the gift of apostleship, some men the gift of prophet, some men the gift of evangelism, some men the gift of pastoring and some men the gift of teaching. The first two, the gifts of apostles and prophets were among the sign gifts that have passed away. He stated by coupling the gifts of pastor and teacher together that some men have both gifts. He was not requiring that the pastor be a teacher or that every teacher be a pastor.
There are two gifts. Pastor and teacher. The pastor gift is not listed elsewhere in scripture. Indeed the translation of this Greek word by the term "pastor" is misleading and probably due to the wrong concept of pastor that the church has had for many years.
The Greek term translated pastor here is actually translated differently every time it appears in the New Testament. It is normally translated shepherd, which is a totally different idea than what we have for the pastor of our day. Let’s consider all of this for awhile.
What are the terms that are used in Ephesians? The term translated pastor is "poimeen" and it is normally translated shepherd. Indeed, it is never translated pastor, except in the Ephesians text. The term translated teacher is "didaskalos" and is translated "master" in the Gospels and teacher in the rest of the New Testament.
II. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE GIFT
Let’s look at the term "poimeen" and find out just what a shepherd should be. There are only two references containing this term in the epistles and both of them are referring to the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25)
The other uses of the term are found in the Gospels. We won’t take time to look at these, but they show the ministry of a shepherd to his sheep. Probably the reference that depicts the overall idea is Matthew 9:36 which shows the overall concern of the shepherd. "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they were faint, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." You should note that this Shepherd not only had the compassion for the people, but His entire ministry related to the steps He took to relieve their misery. It was a caring, and ministering to the sheep.
I would like to sum up the thoughts of the other Gospel references and just list the items that can be seen concerning the shepherd. (These references contain the word "poimeen". Matthew 9:36 (Mark 6:34); Matthew 25:32; Matthew 26:31 (Mark 14:27); Lu. 2:8-20; John 10:1-16.)
Gathers the sheep. Collect, control, draw, and limit are part of gathering sheep.
Keeps the sheep from falsehood or things that are not true.
In the case of Christ, He died for the sheep.
Watches over the sheep.
Stick with the sheep to assure their safety. Won’t leave them.
Know his sheep. His sheep will also know the shepherd. This is not descriptive of many of our churches today.
We won’t go into these thoughts. You can apply these things for yourself.
III. THE MEANING OF THE GIFT
If the man is gifted to be a shepherd then he is one that practices the art of shepherding with a flock of believers. The man that is a teacher is teaching the sheep to do the work that the Lord has for them to do.
It is of interest to me how the apostle Paul operated. Some of the apostles were active in the local church at Jerusalem while others, according to tradition, went out evangelizing as Paul did. Acts 13:1-52 mentions there were prophets and teachers that were active in a local assembly. One of those men was Saul or Paul as we know him. He was either a prophet or teacher and I would guess that he was one of the teachers, because there is no indication in the New Testament that he was a prophet.
Now, why is it that Paul never settles down in a church? The only reason that I can think of is that he realized that he was a teacher and that the Lord wanted him out teaching. He did not practice the gift of pastor in the New Testament as far as I can find. He knew his gift and he practiced his gift where he could. He did not stuff himself into a pastoring position because he knew he was not gifted in that area. It is of note that he also fits into the evangelist line of thought as well.
I trust that as we continue on through life that we will seek to find ways of allowing the gifted to practice their gifts instead of placing them where they do not belong.
A teacher is a teacher and a pastor is a pastor. If a man is both then he should do both. If a man is a teacher, he should be a teacher and if a man is a pastor, he should be a pastor.
May we make some observations?
1. There are five gifts listed in the text. This may have application in three areas: a. This could mean that you will have one man with two gifts, that of pastoring and teaching. b. This could mean that you have one man that is a shepherd and one man that is a teacher if you have a plurality of leadership. If you have only one leader then the man should have both gifts. c. This could mean that a teacher should not be the soul leader of a church. If that is all you have then you should look around until you find the man that is gifted to be a shepherd. Use a "teacher only" if that is all you have, but I believe there will be a shepherd if there is a need.
2. Shepherd is a gift separate from the gift of teaching.
3. In Ephesians 4:1-32 we see that these men are there for the training of the believers. We must assume that the shepherd is involved in training as well as the teacher. Let’s think about how the two might be able to train believers.
THE SHEPHERD: Leads to proper food, corrects, protects from falsehood, guides, motivates to move, and gathers.
THE TEACHER: Teaches proper principles of living, interpreting etc., teaches the Word, warns from the Word, but not to say they shouldn’t get into areas that the shepherd covers and the other way around.
There seems to be a difference of ministry between the two. We must realize that one cannot do the other, and they are a complementary pair of gifts. Indeed, the evangelist can train the believer in areas that the shepherd and teacher cannot.
The teacher can teach principles of evangelism, however it is the evangelist that can take the believer out and show them how it is done.
All three gifts work to train the believer, yet the three cannot operate alone and be effective.
(Some feel that the gift of prophet is current today but that it is functioning in a different way than in the sign gift days. They feel that the prophet is the preacher. This does not detract from what we have stated thus far.)
IIII. THE APPLICATION OF THE GIFT
The importance of all this is seen in the fact that we may have a man that is a pastor and a teacher at the same time, but it is also true that we may have a man that is a pastor and a man that is a teacher and that we could function well as a local assembly with either situation.
I include this study in the hope that we will change our concept of "pastor" to one that is Biblical and not traditional. I have met many men that would love to preach and teach from a pulpit in churches, but they do not feel they are able to handle the other parts of "pastoring" which the church has laid upon the man in the pulpit.
On the other hand I suspect that we have many men that can shepherd that would never be capable of entering into a preaching or teaching situation that are not functioning in the local church because the pastor does those things.
If we had a proper understanding of the term pastor, we could operate a church with a teacher in the pulpit, in the class room or in the Bible study and a pastor in the sick room, or in the counseling room, or in the visiting room.
To clarify, a pastor should be "apt to teach" or able to teach, but I’m not sure that is requirement for the gift of teaching. The gift of teaching would be an asset and is a possibility according to Ephesians four, but the requirement of the shepherd to be in the pulpit does not seem to be Scriptural. He may be, but he is not required to be seems to be the way of the Word.
Christ gave gifts to all believers. Some of these gifts are for training the sheep.
As we move into a new century for the world and the church might we look into the scripture for our forms and organization, rather than into the traditions that we have inherited from past generations.
May we seek to minister to one another as Christ has gifted us.
May we determine that we are not going to cram a teacher into a pastoring position or a pastor into a teaching position.
I might mention there are churches that have realized these things and have allowed their teachers to teach and their pastors to pastor. These churches have a plurality of leadership and function quite nicely with these principles. I am told that A.W. Tozer was a teaching elder in his church and that others did the shepherding.
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Not only are we to walk properly we are to walk properly in the following areas:
a. "lowliness This term is also translated humble. One definition suggests realizing ones littleness. Knowing what you are in relation to God would be my thought of the word. Know who you are and relate to others in that manner.
Lowliness in classical Greek was related to meanness of spirit or a mean person, but the Scripture has given this word new meaning and relates to the realization of the low, or insignificance of one’s self in relation to the grand scheme of things. It is our self-realization that we are not as big a deal as we have made ourselves out to be in life.
If you don’t think that you are insignificant on the grand scale, understand that there are many things in nature that will out live you, such as trees, dirt, air, water, animal life etc. Even that computer you are reading this on will most likely outlive you - not as a computer maybe, but in its natural recyclable self it will be around much longer than you.
It is the value that God places on us that can be an encouragement to our lives, not how important we are to the world.
I recently had an eye operation and when I went in for a check up one of the staff asked how I was doing. I said that I was not impressed, that I couldn’t see very well. She immediately was in a huff, and took my glasses, popped a cover over my good eye and had me read the scale of letters. I did as good as I could to which she said, "You are reading five lines further down than you were yesterday when we started." I replied that I wasn’t sure how she could say that since they hadn’t checked the day before. She increased her huff and said it was documented that on (gave the date) you were doing such and such. I reminded her that that date was not the day before that she had suggested, and that it had been with my glasses. It was obvious she was on the Doctor’s staff and that she was going to be right no matter how wrong she was.
A little humbleness will go a long way to assuring your proper personal relationships with people. We left on tolerable terms, but she made my visit to the doctor very uncomfortable - not what a doctor’s staff is supposed to do.
A little lowliness in church controversies would be quite helpful as well. Many church battles arise from the strong personalities that feel they are the superior.
I might add that when someone is not being as humble as they might it is not your sworn duty before God to lower them for Him either. The better path might be to allow the high-mindedness until a more opportune time to speak with the person.
If a person is dealing with someone that is not humble, it is easy to become less than humble yourself, so be careful how you react to high-mindedness - especially when relating to a doctor’s staff member :-) Being high-minded is not the cure for high-mindedness.
b. "meekness Meekness relates to gentleness or mildness. It is probably the opposite of boisterous or overbearing. Webster mentions that he believed that Christ was one of the few that suggested meekness as a quality. He mentioned that many of the philosophers failed to mention it as part of their life plan.
We knew a young couple that met at Bible College. The two were rather quiet and unassuming, yet were quite the students of the Word. They were seldom heard from except when they had a question for felt that they needed to challenge a teaching. They were a lot of fun, but they were overall, quite quiet in manner and life. I always thought of them as meek or mild people.
c. "with longsuffering - Patient, or slow to avenge are a couple of the uses of the term. One that is slow to act upon a wrong, someone that is slow to make a decision. No, this is not a proof text for procrastination. It is putting up with and putting up with for awhile more. Christ answered when asked how many times one should forgive to forgive seventy times seven - that is longsuffering.
d. "forbearing one another in love" - Forbearing relates to endure. It seems to be the next step up from longsuffering since it relates to putting up with for an extended period. It may relate to the person that has forgiven seventy times six times already and needs to forgive again.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the term "love" is the agape or self-sacrificing love. If we are being longsuffering and forbearing, we are probably sacrificing some for peace and tranquility.
As we are walking with God, we are to do it with the humility of knowing who we are before Him, showing forth the meekness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and putting up with the actions of others to the point of forgiving them their wrongs in love. It is walking as we ought, it is walking as Jesus walked, and it is walking as God would have us walk.
I believe I have mentioned a pastor that was instrumental in my life many years ago. He went to be with the Lord recently, but he was the embodiment of these qualities. He almost exuded these qualities as he lived his life. I am sure he had some down moments, but in all the time I spent with him he had these qualities down pat. He was respected by saved and lost alike due to his manner and character.
It is this manner and character that Paul wants for all believers, not just pastors.
Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
As we walk, we are also to give serious diligence to keeping the unity of the Spirit. Endeavor or be diligent - give your effort to doing this. Not just something in passing, but something you dwell on as part of your walk.
Just what does "unity of the Spirit" mean? First of all, a number of translations I checked give similar reading indicating that it is the Holy Spirit. The text however simply uses the term for spirit which can be the Holy Spirit, man’s spirit, or even unclean spirits.
Personally the idea seems to be that we are to keep unity of spirit in the members of the assembly. As we relate to one another we are to work at keeping the other persons spirit at peace. The problem always seems to be that we do that but the other person won’t reciprocate. They destroy the peace that you might have in your spirit. This is where the diligence etc. of the verses comes in most likely.
Do these three verses sound like any church meetings you’ve ever attended? Yes, I am sure some of you have had the honor of attending some good meetings, but many churches seem to operate in an area of the opposite of what Paul is requesting of the Ephesians.
4 [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all.
We want to look at the series of ones for a moment, but before we do I would point out that the word "one" used in these verses is always Strong’s number 1520 which is the Greek word "heist" and it is mostly translated one. There is one exception. The "one" in "one baptism" is an irregular feminine form of "heist" - "mea" (Strong’s number 3391). It is also normally translated "one."
What is the significance of this change in word? Why did Paul set down such a series and change only one of the words? It may relate to the fact that all these items are things except baptism which is more correctly considered an action.
a. "body Within our context the body would relate to the church, the body of Christ, that group of people that have a common salvation in the Lord, a common calling and a common purpose. We are one, no matter how many titles we give our gatherings. We call our selves Baptists, and Congregationalists, and Methodists, and all sorts of other names, but if we have a common salvation in Christ, we are one, like it or not.
We may differ in other doctrine, in our methods and our standards but we are one body, the body of Christ. This was the great commonality that the Fundamentalist movement had. All agreed on the fundamentals of the faith and all worked toward the furtherance of those fundamentals, while differing in other areas of doctrine, method and practice.
Today "fundamentalist" is a four-letter word that is relegated to those radical whackos that are portrayed in movies as the lunatic fringe - not so in days past, and not necessarily true today either.
b. "Spirit The Spirit is that part of the Trinity that drew and worked with the believer in their lostness. He is the reason that we have become who we are in Christ. He revealed unto us that which we needed to be saved and drew those that we needed to hear to our side so that we could hear about the Gospel of Christ. It is the Spirit that works in us today to lead, guide and empower. It is the Spirit that gifts the church with gifts for the edification of the saints. It is one Spirit, not many spirits; it is He that moves the church along in its ministry of reconciliation.
c. "hope There is only one "hope" and that is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. No other hope that exists can produce the saving power needed to draw the lost into that one body of Christ. Hope is a joyful contemplation of what is surely to come. It is assured, not something that we hope might come to pass. If I need ten dollars to pay a bill, I can hope that I find that ten dollars, which probably isn’t going to happen, or I can hope in my bank account that has fifty dollars. It is a sure thing, not pie in the skyism.
d. "Lord One Lord relates to Christ and His position over us. He provided salvation, He purchased us and we are now His. It is up to us to recognize Him as such and place ourselves in a servant position under His leadership and ownership.
e. "faith This is the normal term for faith, but in this context I believe it to refer to "the faith" - that set of beliefs that the Word of God teaches. It is the faith for which we serve, it is the faith for which we live, and it is the faith for which Christ died. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown submit that this is not the case, but that it is saving faith. Something more for you to study out for yourself.
f. "baptism There is two possibilities for what baptism is referring to here. There is water baptism and there is the baptism of the Spirit at the moment of salvation. I would opt for the later due to the context in which it resides.
g. "God and Father And lastly the third member of the Trinity is mentioned, the Father that set all this into motion so many eons ago before the foundation of the world.
The older commentators make strong note that the list ends where it ends. It does not include "one priest" or "one pope" or "one hierarchy" - that there is no hint of Romanism in this passage and rightly they draw this conclusion.
The sentence ends with a phrase relating to the Father, "who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all." He is everywhere, might be the thought here - even inside you. He is above, through and in. Rather, thought provoking at best. He is declared to be all encompassing in our salvation, and this is part of the basis for our walk with Him.
If we are really in the faith, if we are all really in that hope, if we are really filled with this God that has saved us, how can we do anything but fall on our faces before Him and promise to serve Him to the best of our abilities. He has done it all; we ought to do something. I trust that last sentence rings loud in your ears the next time that you take time to pray, as well as many times in the future.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Paul is becoming more practical in this section, as he moves from the person’s walk to their gift. EVERY one has been given grace or a gift according to the measure of the gift of Christ. This moves us into a section on the gifts and their use in the church body.
This lays groundwork for what the church is to be doing; it is the groundwork of the organization of the church even though few churches function this way.
We attended an Independent Baptist church for a time. Their pastor was very pushy about our address, about our attendance, and one Sunday after the worship service he followed us into the parking lot and started telling us that we needed to come back for the evening service. He said that the morning service was for evangelism, and that the evening study was more of a Bible study.
He told us more than he knew about how he ran his church. His concept was that he was to be the one winning souls in the morning service, not the people out in the world that would bring their new converts into the church for training. We will see the Scriptural principle soon as we move through this passage.
I might be reading more into the verse than is there but it seems to me Paul moves from the unity, the commonality of the body to the individual and the unique parts of the body. "Every" believer receives this grace, and it is unique to them as an individual. There may be more than one in a body that has the same gift, but they are still uniquely gifted. I’ve been taught by many teachers, but each one has a different style and manner.
The term "grace" is the normal term translated grace. It is used in this same thought in Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us...."
Each believer is given a gift. The use of that gift is for the benefit of the body, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, [let us prophesy] according to the proportion of faith;" 1 Corinthians 12:6
We won’t delve into the gifts to any length, but if you would like further study see my theology index under Spiritual gifts for more information.
The body of Christ is made up of many members, each one gifted in some way. That gift is present in a local assembly so that the body can be built up and edified. If one person is not using their gift, then the body is not benefitting and is not being properly built.
Apply that one today. Hundreds of people are in churches and never use their gift for whatever reason. Some because they choose not to, but often because they aren’t allowed to - the church leaders often have their set agenda and if you don’t fit into that plan then your gift will not be utilized.
In my mind, and this is personal opinion, woe to the church leader that does not try to involve as many of his people as possible. The gift is given to the body for use by God because He had a specific purpose in it. If you are the reason someone is not using their gift, I suspect you may be held partially responsible.
Now we move into a passage that is of some concern to commentators. It is normally studied aside from its context, but here we know that context. We have seen that God is vitally involved in man’s business. He has chosen us, He has set our future, and He has now gifted each of us for some ministry.
The next three verses speak to the when of this gifting - at the time of His death, burial and resurrection.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
This is a use of Psalms 68:18 with a little twist. In the Psalm man gave gifts to God, but here God gives gifts to man. The context of the Psalm is the ark, which would indicate my next paragraph to be correct.
It seems to me that the occasion of the beginning of the gifts was when Christ ascended to heaven. It seems from this context that He went down into Sheol and took captives from their captor and took them to be with the Father.
Now, in my way of thinking this relates directly to Luke sixteen and the rich man and Lazarus. The two went into Sheol after their death and one was in torment and the other in seemingly good surroundings. It is these people, those in Abraham’s bosom, that were captive until the freeing work of the cross. It is these people that Christ took with Him to the Father.
It was upon this occasion that He also gave gifts to believers. Prior to that time there was no need of the gifts. It is at this time that the church was born, though not till Pentecost was it officially off and running. The work was done so that the body could begin to be built. Along with those beginnings, the gifts were given to assist in the work of the church.
Some might wonder about why these were captive, who were they, and why were they there? If you go to my study on regeneration, you will find the answers. In brief it is my contention that the Old Testament saints were not regenerated when they came to God. They came to a relationship under the sacrifices whereby they could have fellowship with God, they could be assured of their future with Him, but the work of Christ had not been done. There was no blood shed and until it was, there could be no regeneration.
Since they weren’t completely ready to enter into the presence of God they were placed in Sheol until the work was accomplished. When the work was done, Christ was able to go to them and take them to the Father. I might add that this is a good reason not to believe in "Soul Sleep" that some teach - that when you die you go into a deep sleep until the resurrection. Luke 16:1-31 shows the dead as conscious and conversant with one another.
I might remind you that the Old Testament sacrifices were not sufficient according to Hebrews. They were a covering for sin - the saints sins were hidden but not removed. The blood of Christ washed them away and this made complete the needs of the Old Testament saints.
There is a passage that speaks to Christ preaching to those confined. 1 Peter 3:19 "By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; This seems to be the same occasion in my mind.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
There is some controversy as to which of these gifts are still active. I am not going to go into great detail, but it is obvious we don’t have apostles any longer. The twelve are all dead as are all others that might be suggested as apostles in the time of Paul. There is no evidence that we still have this gift/office from the neither New Testament nor church history. There have been groups in the past that use the title as do some today, but they are not emissaries of Christ, appointed by Christ in the flesh, thus not really apostles as such.
If a group wants to call their top leaders apostle, I don’t know that there is any harm as long as the followers understand that they are not equal to Paul and the others.
The prophets are most likely not for today either. The New Testament thought of a prophet related to fore telling, forth telling and revelation. If you view a prophet today as a forth teller or a preacher then that would be acceptable if it is made clear that they are not as the New Testament prophets. Even among evangelicals there are some that hold to the prophet now being a preacher.
The evangelist is a toss up in my mind. There are men I have met that just are gifted as evangelists. They can bring the Gospel smoothly into any situation or conversation. This is not the norm. If there is someone like this in your church I would suggest you make serious use of him in challenging and training the others in the church to evangelize as well.
The gift of pastor/teacher most likely is valid today, but whether this is two gifts in one man or one gift in one man is of dispute today. The gift of teaching seems valid for the day since the elder is supposed to be apt to teach. Pastor is also a currently needed office as it has been throughout New Testament history. He is the overseer of the assembly, the one that shepherds the flock.
Since the elder should be apt to teach and he shepherds the flock, I would assume that these are the pastor/teachers referred to. Whether every elder must be a pastor/teacher is not clearly stated, but experience would tell me that it is not necessary. There are many great teachers that do not have the ability, nor the desire to shepherd. An elder should be a teacher and may be a pastor/teacher.
Whether it is one gift or two seems unclear and I’m not sure the distinction is needed as long as the leader of your assembly is a shepherd as well as a teacher. I might add that the Net Bible has a note that delineates this by saying that all pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. They view pastors as a subset of the teacher group. This may be the case, as it seems there are two sets, pastors and teachers. All pastors should be teachers since elders are required to be apt to teach. They go further and say that these are two gifts that Paul just links very closely together.
There is an addition at the end of this study on the gift of pastor/teacher that you might find helpful if you are thinking along these lines in your life or just want to study the subject further.
The key to this verse is that Christ gave some gifted men to the church to lead it and nurture it. Another controversy is whether He gave gifts to some men, or if he gave some gifted men to the church. Again the technical outcome of both seems about the same - He gave gifts/men to the church for the nurture and training of the people.
In practicality I see both as possible, yet the gift seems to be in view here. I have seen churches that were in dire need of someone to take over a specific ministry, and all of a sudden a new family commits themselves to the church and low and behold the husband or the wife is gifted in that specific area. God brings the gifts that he desires into the church at different times to achieve the results that He wants.
A church may think they need an associate pastor in the most necessary way, but if God doesn’t think so, why would a church struggle and groan to produce what God hasn’t provided? Because we aren’t listening to the Head of the church - Christ.
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Three reasons the gifts were given.
"Perfecting of the saints Perfecting has the thought of equipping or completely furnishing the saints. This would include all sorts of items of teaching, preaching, encouraging and exhorting. Getting them ready for the job at hand.
One of the first pastors I was under in Bible College took me under his wing for a few months to teach me. As we went on visitation, we would talk about the next call and he would tell me what he hoped to accomplish and how he would go about it. He had purpose to his calling and wanted me to understand that purpose for my own perfecting.
"For the work of the ministry" "Work" is the thought of putting forth effort to accomplish. Here the work of the "ministry" - that effort given forth to minister to people. "Ministry" is a Greek word related to the deacon office of the church. It is something that benefits the church, but takes effort from the one ministering.
The church leadership is to prepare us to minister in the church; they are to prepare us to PUT FORTH EFFORT to the benefit of others and the church. They are to give us the tools to minister.
Those that hold to the gift of evangelism today suggest that one of the duties of the evangelist is to equip others to evangelize. This is right and proper. I might add that the teachers should seek out those with the gift of teaching and train them to do that which they are gifted to do.
Having a gift does not mean you cannot learn principles that will assist you in the use of that gift. A teacher can learn many things that will make them more effective in their presentation, while the gift seems to be an enhancing of what is already there to the benefit of others.
"For the edifying of the body" "Edifying" simply means to build up. A builder puts up a house. The baker bakes a cake or builds it from the ingredients. The church leaders are to give the tools to the congregation so that they can do the work of the ministry of building up the church.
It is not the evangelist that is to win all the people, it is not up to the teacher to win all the people, nor is it up to the pastor to win all the people. It is the evangelist, teacher, and pastor that are to train the people, give them the tools they need to go out and win all the people. This is not to say that the leaders shouldn’t witness nor that they can’t win some to the Lord but it is to say that it is not their total responsibility to do all the soul winning, nor to do all the calling, nor to do all the other work of the church. Only to train the people to do all these things.
Relate that to most churches. Many operate on the thought that the people invite and cajole and entertain the lost into the church so that the pastor can win them to the Lord. This is not the Biblical model and should be abandoned in any church/organization that is doing it this way.
Some might suggest that the people aren’t doing the job so someone has to do it. But I might well suggest that the people most likely are not being perfected for the ministry of the church. Get to work teaching them properly and they will do that which they are trained to do.
Not that the people are that excited about being trained. We were in a church that put together an evangelism conference. We sent out letters to all the churches of like faith in the city. Time came for the conference and at the first meeting there were more workers than there were participants. This was true in most of the meetings/seminars. Evidently there were several churches where the people had not been taught that it was up to them to win the lost - they were leaving it to someone else.
Just how might we get back on track with this Biblical model of soul winning?
a. In some cases, we need to get the congregations saved first. We need to get them under the headship of God.
b. Then we need to get them to understand that they are on earth for God’s glorification, not their own self edification.
c. Then we need to help them understand that Christ purchased them, that they are His, and that He is their master. We are to be about His work, not amassing fortunes and toys for ourselves.
d. Then we can do the training or perfecting. We need to give them the tools to do the work of building the church.
e. Somewhere in the mix we need to teach them that the church is under the Lord’s headship rather than under the pastor’s or leadership’s headship. If they are individually seeking God and His plan for their life, they will naturally see what they are to be doing. They then will seek Christ’s lead in doing His work in His church.
Too many there are today that seldom if ever consult Christ about what He wants for the church. It is just assumed the pastor knows where the church is going and how to get there. I know of a small church that was just muddling along with no purpose. They called a new pastor and he gave them a purpose statement. He did not suggest it was at the leading of the Lord, nor was it with any input of the congregation. It was merely a statement from the pastor of what they should become.
Actually, it never became that, it just kept muddling along as it was. Had the pastor and congregation gotten together with the Head and come up with a purpose, they might have gotten a direction and purpose for existence.
The term "work" has the thought of business or occupation. This adds to what has been stated already. Our purpose, our calling, our reason for being is the work of the ministry of Christ. Our occupation ought to center in that one purpose for life. Yes, we may have to work at janitoring, or businessing, or homemaking to get along in life, but our main purpose is not janitoring, or businessing, or homemaking, it is the ministry of building up the church for our Lord and Savior.
It also harkens to the thought of effort, of labor, and of action. It may not be easy to be involved; in fact it may be work. Years ago when in Bible College we were required to be involved in "Christian service" while taking a full course of classes. Add to that the family to raise and working part time the Christian service often was a real labor. It often was hard to bring myself to get in the car and drive down to the church to do those items assigned me, but let me tell you on the way home after taking part in that ministry I was so blessed I was charged up for the next day of classes, study and work.
The work of the church may seem to be an interruption to your life, but it will bless you and minister to you more than any effort that you might give
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
These gifts were given to prepare workers for the ministry UNTIL "we all come in the unity of the faith...." and the "knowledge of the Son of God" - purpose? "Unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
Wow, the purpose of all this is that we would be perfect, or as the word implies, complete to do the job, and we are to be the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Chew on that will you!
Have you reached this point by attending your church the last few years? Pastor, have you assisted your sheep to this point in their lives with your ministry. This is what it is all about. It isn’t the programs, it isn’t the camps, and it isn’t all the froth that most churches put out, it is training the saints to be complete in Christ. If you are not doing that you are not doing your job - simple is it not?
Sounds like we are to be trained by the church leaders until we are fully prepared and complete to measure up to Christ. Not that we become God, but that we are prepared in all spiritual knowledge as He was. Fullness of Christ, or that great knowledge with which He confounded the people and leaders of His day.
That is ready to do any work that God calls you to do. It means you will have knowledge to confront those around you. The question is how many Christians in churches across the world are this ready, this prepared, and this trained? If you say few, I would guess you are about right.
The reason for all this readiness is seen in the next verse.
That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
The verse is fairly clear. I have seen a number of churches and heard of others that have had a pastor come in and take the church off into some other organization or denomination. This text tells us why the pastor was able to succeed in such activity. The people were not trained properly and they were tossed to and fro.
If you see or hear of a church being taken into some other theological position you can be sure they were not properly trained and prepared to stand on their own. One of the community churches in our area called a new pastor and within six months he had convinced most of the people that they should change from dispensational theology to covenant theology. Fortunately the property was in the name of one of the deacons and he would not be swayed. When the dust settled all but a small handful of well taught people had left the church with the pastor to set up a new church.
I suspect we can be fairly sure what was not done by former pastors in that church. There is also that possibility that they were being taught but the people were not listening as they ought to have been.
"Tossed to and fro" is descriptive of the waves of the sea. When in the Navy I was stationed on a troop transport. We were in Japan when a typhoon decided to raise cane in the Pacific (A typhoon is a hurricane, but it is located in the Pacific Ocean).
For some reason, unknown to the crew or his higher commanders, our captain ordered the ship to sea. We were anchored in the best typhoon harbor in the Far East. The harbor was surrounded by large hills and was quite protected from the winds.
As we set out to sea, the weather reports showed the storm headed away from us so we started heading the other direction. Through the night the storm shifted course and was catching us very quickly. The decision was made to turn the ship into the storm for safety. As the storm overtook us the entire crew knew full well what being tossed to and fro meant. As we were entering the eye of the storm the next night I was standing with my legs as far apart as possible and hanging onto a piece of radar equipment with both hands and the rolls of the ship knocked me off balance several times.
If we do not teach our congregations the doctrines of the Word they are going to be tossed from one good sounding doctrine to another by anyone that comes on the scene with a convincing line. It is not that the people are ignorant or dumb; it is because they have never learned what the Word contains.
Notice "by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" There are men, false teachers to be more specific, that deceive anyone they can by their cunning and their craftiness. They are like the medicine men of the old west. They went from town to town fooling the people into buying their super healing powered elixirs that would heal all maladies of man and beast.
"Sleight" according to one old commentator was like the tossing of dice, the thrower tosses the dice for his own benefit, not the benefit of those around him. Nothing helpful for the listener, this is not the picture of the purpose of the gifts.
So, the false teacher goes from place to place tricking and fooling those that are untaught by their craftiness and trickery.
Pastor - teacher - leader - this is your wake up call. These men are all over the place, in fact there are women doing the same thing. Get to the work of training your people and teaching them the basics then build upon that base and ground them well in the Word before someone comes along and tricks them right out of your church and influence.
I might add, you had better be sure your teaching is Biblical before you go too far, so that you don’t become that which we speak of in this text.
And the ultimate negative of this verse, if we are tossed to and fro, then we are as children fooled by almost anyone. Trust may well enter into the acceptingness of those fooled and tricked. A child trusts almost anyone and almost anything. Maturity of the saints is that which Paul wants to occur, not fuzzy wuzzy messages and lessons that make the kids feel good, but some solid meat to help the believers grow in the Lord.
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:
Again, that thought of maturing - becoming like Christ in all ways that we can.
"Speaking the truth" or as some suggest "holding the truth" as opposed to the false of the previous verse. I suspect there is a little interpretation in those going with "holding the truth" since that is not the meaning of the word which suggests speaking or telling of the truth, however to do so, one must first hold the truth.
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
And all this is so that we become a body - a unit that can serve Christ properly. As we become a body, we will act as one, we will follow the head, and we will not be going fifteen hundred directions on our own.
What an imperative for the church today. This is not the norm that I have observed in so many churches today. Many pastors/teachers are teaching the feel good philosophy of our day. We are taught to do what will build our esteem, we are being taught to fulfill ourselves, and we are being taught by default to concentrate on the things of this world rather than the next. (If we aren’t being taught of the next world and our obligation to live for it, we are by default being taught to follow the world and all that it offers.
Question yourself? When is the last time you have heard or taught theology? When is the last time you have heard or taught the dispensational belief system? When is the last time you have heard or taught the pre-tribulation rapture system? When is the last time you have heard or taught the Millennium coming system of belief? When is the last time you have heard or taught Christology, theology, pneumatology, hamartiology, soteriology, ecclesiology or eschatology?
Suffice it to say that we are in a real war in this age, and if we don’t get our act together the church is going to be buried in the world so far only Christ will be able to dig it out. We are not producing Christians that can go to the world and give proper defense of their beliefs, so many do not even open their mouth for their Lord.
Section Eight: 4:17-32
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
Paul again calls the believer to walk - not as the lost Gentiles walk - and goes into the lost’s perverted mindset and lifestyle. We are a different breed, with a different purpose and a different mind than the lost.
The lost walk in the vanity of their mind. Now, that is sooooo true. What ever vanity they can conceive they will make a part of their lifestyle. We won’t take time here to talk about the fact that within a year or two the Christians of America will adopt the same vanity and call it godliness.
The term vanity can relate to "void of truth and appropriateness" or "perverseness," "depravity," or "want of vigor." Vanity of their mind would describe the want of truth or the depravity of the mind. The inability of that mind to discern truth or that which is appropriate.
If this is truly the lost mind, then the things that mind dreams up to be good and fun, ought surely not be related to the Christian mind or action. Just because the world gives us filthy lyriced rap, does not mean that Christians should imitate it. It came from a polluted mind not one that was transformed by the power of God.
Believers ought to gauge their activities and actions to their creator not the fallen created, to their transformed mind not the depraved mind of the lost.
I would challenge you to name something that the vain mind has come up with in the last century that the "Christian" church has not adapted to its own walk. We have taken on and surpassed the losts use of divorce, we now have homosexual churches, we have everything Christian that the world has worldly - yes, we often clean it up a little, but not all that much - we wouldn’t want to loose the vanity of it.
1. Some might suggest that I have been unduly hard on Christians and the church in this section. This may be true, but this week alone - and it is only Wednesday - I have heard on the news of a pastor that has given false reports to the police about being attacked by homeless people, a Christian choir member dentist of murdering his estranged wife, and a Sunday school teacher up on sexually abusing children.
The norm? No, but that is three too many believers in the news. These are men from "evangelical" churches, not the Roman church where we know they have their own problems.
No, Christians aren’t perfect, but they ought to act better than they do.
2. Relating to the sins that might grieve the Spirit, Barnes becomes quite clear in what he thinks. I would like to quote a few points that he makes.
"There is a course of conduct which will drive that Spirit from the mind as if he were grieved and pained--as a course of ingratitude and sin would pain the heart of an earthly friend, and cause him to leave you." If asked what that conduct is, we may reply,
"(1.) Open and gross sins. They are particularly referred to here; and the meaning of Paul is, that theft, falsehood, anger, and kindred vices, would grieve the Holy Spirit, and cause him to depart. [I am not sure he really means depart here, or rather, cease to function as He wishes. I am not aware that Barnes thought the Spirit would come and go in the New Testament but do not know for sure.]
"(2.) Anger, in all its forms. Nothing is more fitted to drive away all serious and tender impressions from the mind than the indulgence of anger.
"(3.) Licentious thoughts and desires. The Spirit of God is pure, and he dwells not in a soul that is filled with corrupt imaginings.
"(4.) Ingratitude. We feel ingratitude more than almost anything else; and why should we suppose that the Holy Spirit would not feel it also?
"(5.) Neglect. The Spirit of God is grieved by that. Often he prompts us to pray; he disposes the mind to seriousness, to the perusal of the Bible, to tenderness and penitence. We neglect those favored moments of our piety, and lose those happy seasons for becoming like God.
"(6.) Resistance. Christians often resist the Holy Ghost. He would lead them to be dead to the world; yet they drive on their plans of gain. He would teach them the folly of fashion and vanity; yet they deck themselves in the gayest apparel. He would keep them from the splendid party, the theatre, and the ballroom; yet they go there. All that is needful for a Christian to do, in order to be eminent in piety, is to yield to the gentle influences which would draw him to prayer and to heaven."
3. The lie - something to consider. Just what is a lie? It is the lack of truth, or the misrepresentation of truth. Truth is basic to life, without it we have a hard time functioning. Truth is slowly being whittled from our society. The politicians slaughter it, the media ignores it or now and then bends it for their own advantage.
Humanism would have us believe that there is no truth, that all is relative. Whatever you believe is then truth for you, but it may differ drastically from what the next person believes.
Truth is the basis of our lives. We must know the truth of the Word and live our lives based upon it.
In the work place one is often challenged to break truth - just a little - just a little white lie - just a little less than the full truth. Telling a customer that the boss is out when he is in, telling a visitor that mom is sick when she is not, or telling the insurance man that you are healthy when you know better.
Oh, we can justify all these things if we want, but it makes us liars if we do. John 8:44 tells us that the Devil is the father of the lie, and we honor him when we fall away from the truth in our relations with others.
There is a story that was attributed to an Irish mother but the same story is attributed to Mohammed in a commentary I recently read - now I don’t know how we sort that out in comments about the lie :-) but anyway, either a Muslim man or a son of an Irish woman came and asked how they could right their telling a lie about another person. Mohammed or the Irish mother told the Muslim or the Irish child to place a feather on every door step in town. Then the next day the man or son was to go around town and retrieve every feather. The protest was that the wind would have carried them all away. This account relates just how hard it is to right the wrong of a lie.
Now, since I have been to Ireland and since I have read of the desert, I can’t say either account is wrong for there is certainly wind in both lands. Maybe just another example of the lack of truth in our society today.
I like Gill’s comment on the lie, "a lie is a voluntary disagreement of the mind and speech...."
4. This idea of anger needs to be considered in our day. We see what is being called "road rage" where people go ballistic because someone does something they don’t like while driving.
Aristotle once said, "Anyone can become angry, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not easy." Anger isn’t wrong, but uncontrolled anger is wrong. The balance is the key.
Anger seems to be a rampant thing in the two thousands. I have a few pet ideas of why it seems to be at such an aggravated level. First, there is the key thought that there are more lost people than ever before. The population is growing rapidly and the Christian element of society is shrinking almost as rapidly. This is why America is going in such a corrupt way - there are fewer Christian voices, and some of them are so far into the liberal camp that they blend in with the lost.
Secondly, there is little to look forward to. Jobs are scarce. Jobs are disappearing. Jobs are not secure. People used to be able to work for the same company until retirement and retire on the benefits of the company. Not so today. Your job may be outsourced or contracted out and you are left in your declining years with no job and ten years till retirement. If you do make it to retirement, the company that you trusted is likely to spend your retirement fund for new equipment and tell you that they are sorry but that they needed the money.
Thirdly, there is no hope. The items mentioned above, and add to that the lostness of the lost - they have nothing to look forward to as far as a next life, so this is it and many of them have lost out on the pot of gold so have nothing to look forward to. Even if they have the pot of gold they look for a bigger pot.
Without any eternal items to look forward to, this life is it. If they are in their declining years and have not made their pot of gold, then they have little chance to do so.
Fourthly, and lastly, I believe our government is creating so many laws and so many requirements that a law abiding person tends to drive themselves crazy trying to obey all of them - those he can remember anyway. There are laws that we have not even heard of. Every time I hear of someone being charged with an accident I hear a new law or two that I had not heard of. A cab driver recently had an accident on a freeway. He was charged with not controlling his vehicle, with not keeping his vehicle in his lane and one other charge. Who knew? It used to be covered under reckless driving.
There are not only many laws, but many not so intelligent laws. The state of Oregon passed a law that school zones would be twenty miles per hour at all times of the day and all days of the week. When the law was finally implemented, it was the above, but only in normally thirty miles an hour speed zones. In thirty-five miles per hour zones the law does not apply.
When the public outcry was heard in the legislature, they determined that this was not what they meant when they passed the bill. One astute voter asked, "Well, didn’t you read it before you passed it?"
Add to the above the fast pace, the cell phones, the pocket computers and the anger of others that is often vented upon the calm person and it is no wonder that the country is on a hair trigger to blow up.
The lostness of the world also closely relates. The more lost people there are the more anger and nastiness to go around. What a reason for believers to live as if Christ were their Savior - it can only bring good into a few peoples lives. However, I might suggest when you are nice to a person for the first time, duck because they will probably blow up at you for being religious.
5. Work was mentioned in this study. There is little "good" work ethic in our world today. In my book Mr. D’s Notes on Lots of Other Stuff there is a study on "work" that might be of interest to you.
6. The crux of this passage to me is the stark contrast between the lost and the believer. The two are most complete opposites. You cannot find anyway in which they are not opposite. One is evil, one is good, one is corrupt, one is pure, one is godless and the other Godly.
Consider - the corruptness and evilness of the lost, then think of the most opposite living creature that you can and you have what the believer should be. Good in every respect and devoid of evil or corruptness.
The believer is to be a little Christ in this life - not that we won’t sin, but that we sin little and walk as if Christ were in our every word, movement, and thought. The believer is charged with this life style and is equipped with the indwelling Spirit so that he can live it.
It isn’t a maybe, it isn’t a multiple choice, it is an imperative from God Himself - He asks us to be like His Son, He asks us to live as if we are redeemed, rather than like we had never heard of Christ and His Gospel.
Again, imagine what the church - the world would be like if all believers started living as they ought. What an impact the church would have on the world around them if this were to occur.
7. The vain mind is, according to the commentaries, empty minded or "empty headed" - not that we should go around telling the lost that they are mindless, or empty headed, but that is what they are in relation to God. They are totally devoid of God in their minds and lives.
Gill states of the vain mind of the lost, "every natural man walks in a vain show; the mind of man is vain, and whoever walk according to the dictates of it, must walk vainly: the phrase is expressive of the emptiness of the mind; it being naturally destitute of God, of the knowledge, fear, and grace of God; and of Jesus Christ, of the knowledge of him, faith in him, and love to him; and of the Spirit and his graces; and it also points at the instability and changeableness of the human mind, in which sense man at his best estate was altogether vanity; as also the folly, falsehood, and wickedness of it in his fallen state: and the mind discovers its vanity in its thoughts and imaginations, which are vain and foolish; in the happiness it proposes to itself, which lies in vain things, as worldly riches, honours, &c. and in the ways and means it takes to obtain it, and in words and actions; and the Gentiles showed the vanity of their minds in their vain philosophy and curious inquiries into things, and in their polytheism and idolatry: to walk herein, is to act according to the dictates of a vain and carnal mind; and it denotes a continued series of sinning, or a vain conversation maintained, a progress and obstinate persisting therein with pleasure: now God’s elect before conversion walked as others do, but when they are converted their walk and conversation is not, at least it ought not to be, like that of others:"
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
The lost’s understanding is darkened. Darkened is a perfect passive verb meaning that the understanding is darkened and always will be darkened, unless of course Christ intercedes. It also means that it is darkened from some force from without - namely sin in general and specifically may relate to the hardening of the heart by God.
Darkened can be translated devoid of light. When I was in the Navy, we had what was called darken ship condition. When at war any light from a ship could make that ship a nice target for the guns of the enemy, so all port holes and hatches are closed and there is no light on the exterior of the ship.
One night I was up late and was going down to get some sleep. I decided I would go out on deck and walk forward to a hatch that led down to my sleeping area. I closed the hatch, turned to walk forward and the black was like a thick blanket cast over my head. I immediately had no sense of direction, no sense of what was ahead of me, and no sense that, indeed, there was anything ahead of me like a deck to walk on. I felt if I took one step it could be off the side of the ship.
I had walked that path dozens of times, yet one step into it and I was totally unaware of any familiar item of sight. I immediately dropped to my hands and knees and began to feel my way forward - reaching out for that which was familiar to guide me. I finally found the hatch, but vowed never to go on deck when we were under a darken ship condition again.
Imagine the understanding of the lost. Do you get a hint of why they don’t understand you when you take a Biblical stand on something, do you get a hint of the total frustration of their minds, and do you get a hint of why we are not to walk as if our understanding is darkened?
Their understanding has no guide, thus they understand whatever seems right to them - rather sounds like humanism to me - no wonder that system of thought and life developed - it developed from a non-understanding mind. It should be obvious to the believer that humanism is not a system of life that a believer should follow, yet humanistic thinking is totally prevalent in Christian thinking today.
Not only is their understanding darkened, but they are "alienated from the life of God." They can’t live the life of godliness; they are alienated or shut out from this type of life. It is beyond what they are capable of - so why are we surprised at the sinfulness of mankind? So, why do Christian’s like to pattern their lives after lost people that can’t live godly, and can’t understand Biblical standards?
They can’t understand, and they can’t live like God wants them to live - rather plain to me - they are incapable of it - impossible - they don’t know God, they can’t understand God and they can’t live a life that is pleasing to God - no surprise when you understand this passage.
They can’t walk after God because of the "ignorance that is in them," - ignorance is not a negative disparagement of the lost mind, but rather a description of their condition. They are without moral guidance; they lack the knowledge that is required.
Their lack of knowledge stems from their blindness, their callousness to truth, their continued disregard for truth and/or help from God.
This passage reminds me of Pharaoh and the continued opportunities he had to respond to
God and His messenger, but he just kept rejecting truth and the callousness just got worse with each step of his mind. Exodus 14:4 "And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I [am] the LORD. And they did so." This thought is repeated in Romans 9:17 "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth."
The lost person that turns his back on the Gospel may get another chance, but then again he may not. God is not obligated to reveal Himself more than once - indeed, he has done that in nature already and most lost people reject that revelation.
Recently a school district in the south has been considering adding a theory of creation based on "design" rather than evolution. This system was to be taught along side evolution in the schools. The lost of the community reject this as non-scientific and mixing church and state, when it is actually an argument from logic rather than Scripture. They reject it because they reject God. They don’t care that it comes from the sciences, they don’t care that it may even seem like a possible alternative to evolution, and they just reject it because Christians have extended it as a possibility.
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
"Past feeling" or incapable of feeling further pain. They are insensitive to pain, unable to sustain further pain. The indications are that they have suffered pain, but now are beyond it and/or its effects. This is the only use of the term in the Bible.
"Lasciviousness" can be translated "filthy" "wanton" or "shamelessness" thus giving a very negative connotation to the term. Mark 7:20 lists it among some pretty nasty items of the inner man. 20 "And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." In Romans 13:13 it is translated "wantoness" and in Galatians 5:19 ff it is contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit as one of the works of the flesh. "19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." It is also used of Lot being vexed by the "filthy" conversation of those around him in Sodom in 2 Peter 2:7. (See also 2 Peter 2:18 and Judges 1:4.)
Because they are beyond feeling they have made a conscious decision to give themselves over to this despicable way of life.
"To work all uncleanness with greediness." They make this decision and then move on to do all things unclean with greediness - fulfilling every filthy desire might be the thought.
By way of application we might wonder who these people are. Paul is describing lost people folks - not the total perverts of society but all lost people that have rejected God - anyone that has consciously considered God and rejected the simple Gospel.
This passage is similar to Romans 1:21-32 Take a moment to read it and note toward the last their end. "21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."
What a sad and pointed passage. A passage that is totally overlooked in the perversion discussions of our day. I am sure that they can explain away all these things that God has so clearly revealed to us, but they can’t change or pervert God’s mind. His Word represents His mind and His mind seems quite made up on the likes of these, no matter how nice and fuzzy the media likes to paint them.
We have churches in America that cater to the homosexual community and see nothing wrong with that perversion. The "lifestyle" is totally accepted and honored in these churches no mater what God has declared in His very clear Word.
One might wander at the leaders of these churches. Leaders that will be held accountable for their actions and decisions. Notice in the Romans text - they have pleasure in doing what is so totally wrong. Talk about a complete rejection of God.
By way of application, I can see a great reason here for witnessing to those folks that you meet each day. Many of them have not made that decision that will head them down this evil trail, but if someone does not intercede with the Good News they may well make that final decision against God and begin their destructive path.
I could be wrong, but this Romans passage seems to speak of people that have unequivocally rejected God and all that He has revealed. These are what our prisons are filled with, these are those that enjoy the pain of their victims, these are those that enjoy anything that gives them pleasure no matter the cost to others.
I further believe that those that have not totally rejected God will not travel this road necessarily, though it is wide open to them. I believe that until they have ejected God they have opportunity to accept Him and avoid this horrible end. Peace is only a decision away for the lost, yet those that have decided no have no hope, their heart is hardened and their destruction is sure.
It seems appropriate to view Paul’s comments in Ephesians to apply to the lost in general while the Romans passage seems to be a passage related to those that have truly rejected God by a decision of their mind.
But ye have not so learned Christ;
Wow, what a relief! The believer has not learned this perversion of truth. Glory to God that He has protected us from the likes of those that have rejected Him so completely. It is not that we don’t know of these things, it is that we are not involved in them. We are free of such corruption due to the work of Christ. If not Christ, then we would be in danger of the same peril.
If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
He has really blasted the lost so you should be at ease, but beware for Paul seldom blasts without purpose. He is setting up the Christian for a little blast of their own. He now is talking about what the believer has learned, what the believer has been taught and what the believer should believe - TRUTH that is found in Christ.
The thought of the text is that you don’t live that corrupt life that he has just described if indeed they have learned of Christ properly, have been taught of Christ properly and accepted truth properly.
Look out, here it comes, if you aren’t to live that way then he must be going to tell us how we ought to live and this isn’t going to be pretty for some believers.
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
Now, follow closely. "Put off the former conversation the old man This is an aorist middle which means it is a one time act (aorist) and it is something that we are actively involved with when it occurs. It seems that we as believers at some time put off things related to the old man, or the old nature. The when of this occurrence is not yet in view. ("Conversation" relates to behavior or manner of life.)
"Is corrupt" happens to be a present passive which tells us that the old man or the lost man is in a continuing state of corruptness and that the action of corruptness is from without - it is a state that continues not by our own accord, but by God - not to say that He had, in any way, anything to do with us becoming corrupt - that we accomplished all by our lonesome by being born into the Adamic - fallen race.
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
The thought here is that we need to be, indeed, are renewed - a present activity that is accomplished from without WHEN WE .........
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
We put on the new man - a one time act that is accomplished by our own action. This results in God taking action, that "created in righteousnes" or if you will the rebirth of salvation.
Let’s recap. We are corrupt but we can put off that old man, and we can put on the new man, but it is God that does the rest. When we accept Christ, we reject the old and put on the new by a conscious decision and from their God recreates our worthless beings into something that He can use and we can live with - literally live with eternally.
Now, the ramifications of this: Remember all of these actions are aorist, or one time acts, not a continuing action. We put it off, we put it on and God recreates - done deals everyone. Remember that when you start to consider the teaching that says we have a struggle going on between the old man and the new creation - these facts of Paul’s don’t seem to fit into that teaching very well - please reconsider that teaching if you hold to it.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
And now some practical application - stop lying to one another and speak truth to your neighbor or the ones that are near you because we are members one of another - we are equal, we are unified, we are one, and we are the body of Christ.
"Lying" is the translation of the Greek word we gain pseudo from - falsehood, a willful knowledgeable telling that which is not true.
If you work in most workplaces you know what I am talking about - the lie is the norm, why tell the truth when a lie will work. In fact why tell the truth when a lie will work even if the truth would result in a better result.
The lie is the basis of our society. The misleading is the norm. The half truth is to be expected. I have even known Christians that carry on this way, but Paul calls them to a better standard - speak truth.
The term "members" literally relates to a part of the human body. We are an integrated part of the body of Christ, so why would we lie and mislead with falsehood? We are in essence lying to the head, Christ, in that any communication between members of the body must go through the head. The right hand can’t get assistance from the left without the head sending a request to the left that will result in the desired effect.
I think this relates to "How are you doing today?" "Oh, I’m pretty good." when the pretty good might be better stated, I have not felt good for weeks and the doctor is concerned about what it is. We need to be honest with one another. We can’t minister to one another unless we know that something is needed.
This relates in being up front in all things especially financial. A church congregation should have access to the books, to what is being paid out, what is being done with the Lord’s money. I recently asked a young minister what his senior pastor received from the church. He did not know. I asked if it wasn’t in the yearly financial statement. He replied that only a lump "Payroll" sum was listed for the congregation to see. While this is not a lie, it certainly isn’t the spirit of this verse either.
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Ahhhhhhhh one of my favorite verses. Paul tells us to be angry, just don’t let the sun set on your anger. Isn’t that refreshing? NOT! Read that as a rhetorical question, "Be ye angry?" If so, sin not and take care of it before sundown.
There are two points to the matter of the anger. First it is a passive meaning that the anger is coming as a result of outside forces. Secondly, the word for angry used here is usually related to something that is from the inward or the cause of anger. In short this is anger that is generated because of something external that has happened. It is anger that your spouse causes in you because of something they said or did. It is anger that your congregant caused to well up within you. It is the anger that your pastor caused to be stirred within you.
If you have this sort of anger, deal with it before sundown. That would cure a heap of problems. Since this is the context of the church body, I wonder how much more peaceful churches might be if sundown was the extent of any anger/problem. Normally in churches we put up with this anger and it just dwells within and consumes our thoughts, our emotions and our time. Days often go by until the anger wells up and comes out at someone unrelated to the problem. Often we just bottle up this anger and never deal with it thus hindering ourselves and our usefulness within a church body.
Note that to be angry doesn’t seem to be the sin, but the not dealing with the anger is the sin. If this is in the context of the pastor irritating you, it is you that sins, it is you that will be suffering, and it is you that must correct the problem. Often these "church" problems are one sided. The offending party seldom knows that there is a problem.
"Exasperation" is another meaning of the word translated wrath, so it may not be just anger, it could simply be that you are really upset or up tight about a situation.
Neither give place to the devil.
"Devil" is the term "diablos" and often relates to the Devil himself, but can simply mean slanderer or one who slanders or falsely accuses. This might be one that seems to take the Devil’s side by slandering someone. Every translation I checked uses the term "devil" but in the context we are discussing the church body and the member’s relation to one another. I would not want to go against so many translations but wonder if this might be better seen as give no place for slanderers.
Though almost all uses of the term are translated devil, 1 Timothy 3:11 uses it as slander. "11 Even so [must their] wives [be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things." It is also translated false accusers in 2 Timothy 3:3 "Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good," (Also see Titus 2:3) It is also of note that Paul is the only one of the New Testament writers that uses the word in this manner, thus one would feel free to see slander or false accusation in this context as most fitting.
Even if you don’t feel that this is true, it is certainly a good application - don’t give place in the church body for slander to arise. The body is no place for it.
How might we set a condition so that slander and false accusation is not easily proffered?
a. Create a loving body - all people showing love one for another.
b. Stop anyone that wants to begin to slander or bring accusation before they begin.
c. When you know it is in the body, name it as sin and confront it at its source immediately.
d. If you can’t stop someone from doing it, then walk away and ignore that person when they begin their sin.
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with [his] hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
A definite call to honest work for a living as opposed to the easy way of life. The text speaks of stealing, but there are today, some that make a living in a manner that is not far from stealing, yet it is legal. The point is that we are to labor with our hands - do actual work for a living, not live off other people’s labor.
There are many today on the welfare system that are living off the kindnesses of those that work for a living. I don’t want to deny those in need what they can gain, but if the gain was not there, many more would be working for a living. Those that are able to work and do not work are a continual drag on society and should be corrected in their life style.
The last part of the verse is of interest - working is not only for gaining a living but for helping those in need. Today, we have the panhandlers that are making more than any of us working folks and they don’t even pay taxes I would guess, since what they receive is a gift.
Churches are inundated with people wanting a handout. Many of them know the system and claim to be Christians, some even find out the pastors names in neighboring towns in the fellowship of the churches they are hitting up so that they sound more legitimate. Churches have a very hard time knowing who is really in need and who is conning them.
Many have simply stopped helping anyone and refer everyone to the social services in their area - not an unwise idea to me. It is suggested that we help those in our own assembly that are in need - we can hold them accountable, we can know their need is legitimate and we can see the good our assistance is doing.
Some today will not work if the work is hard. This word translated labor carries the thought of fatigue with it, or the idea of working hard, working and toiling, or working till you are fatigued - not a concept for our easy lifestyle day is it? Today if we have to toil, we look for another job - we can’t hinder ourselves like that is the thought. We must find a place to put in our time so that we can gather a pay check - forget that WORK stuff!
I think this verse presents a principle that most of us have experienced. The reward of hard work and having extra money to share with others is a real blessing.
I "retired" a couple years ago and this is one thing that has bothered me. There is no reward for sitting and watching television or drinking coffee at the local fast food joint. Those days when I find a lot of things to do around the house and maybe running errands are a real boost to me because I feel I am accomplishing something. If I weren’t able to write, I most definitely would be back in the work force if I could find a job.
Many on our welfare system have never known that joy and the system is not about to allow them to. The system is self perpetuating so they must keep people on the roles so that they have a reason to exist. Some states have started requiring people to work for their check. You can tell the free loaders very easily. They are the ones that are upset about having to work for something that is "owed" them, while those honest people that are in the system due to no fault of their own are overjoyed at having something to do and being productive.
I have often wondered about people that lived on crime. It must be a frustrating thing to have to be constantly planning and scheming to find enough money to live on. They can’t just go and put in their eight hours and then enjoy the rest of the day, they have to be thinking ahead about how they are going to get their next fix, or their next hit so that they can continue on. Seems a job would be an easier option.
One other application. This seems to be an absolute. Don’t steal, but go to work. That isn’t a multiple choice, it is an absolute - do it this way, not the other way. So many today have been educated in humanism which tells them they don’t have to do what they don’t want to do, they only have to do what they feel like doing - there are no absolutes, just what you want for your life. This verse proves the basic premise of humanism incorrect - there are absolutes that ought to be followed.
It is also of note that Paul places stealing as a part of the lost person, while specifying that the believer is to work for a living. That ought to tell us something in and of itself.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Oh, Paul has left giving Biblical advice and gone to meddling as the old timers used to say. What a nasty thing to say to Christians. Why would he ever say such a thing, implying that a believer would ever say anything wrong? Well, he probably was a time traveler and knows what Christians were like in the two thousands. Not that believers of all ages didn’t need this admonition.
We are a righteous, saved, purified bunch but our tongues can ruin lives and seem to be straight out of the gutters. When in the Navy I took on a rather colorful way of talking, and into my early married life it came. In retrospect I have to wonder why my dear wife put up with my language - why she didn’t put a sock or a dozen in my mouth I will never know.
Now, from the non-swearing perspective I wonder how people can stand to listen to themselves. In our neighborhood we have people that stand in the middle of the street using gutter language to try to level one another out verbally. They pay no mind to children walking by or neighbors that can hear every word inside their homes.
This not only relates to swearing but relates to anything that ought not come out of your mouth, lies, gossip, backbiting and even base language. Base language would relate to things that aren’t discussed in normal society it is the language that is slowly being worked into the television commercials ever so "innocently." All are un-natural to the believer that has the Spirit of God within to assist them in Christian living.
On the contrary we are to edify with our mouths - build up rather than tear down - a novel concept! We are to build up one another not make others feel inadequate, unwanted and worthless.
Looking back on some of our "fellowship" over the years, much has bordered on the corrupt side of this verse. Church members getting together to complain about the teacher, the pastor, the deacon board etc. while few, it is very sad to say, border on the "edifying" side of the passage.
We did have some edification from student get togethers while in college. One couple in particular stands out in my mind. They were neighbors and one summer we started getting together in the evenings for snacks and talk. Normally the conversation turned rather quickly to things of the Lord and we would spend hours talking of spiritual things. The most special part of these times was the fact that we were challenged by the discussions to better spiritual lives - at least my wife and I felt that way - we were built up in the faith, challenged to live a more pure life, and encouraged to be more open with our faith.
This is what the idea of "fellowship" is, rather than the usual talk believers involve themselves in - the news, weather, and sports. Years ago I preached a sermon on fellowship and mentioned the usual news, weather, and sports. It was in a little cow town just off the interstate in a church full of ranchers. After the message one woman came to me, grabbed my hand, and told me that I was right on in my message, but I really had one thing wrong, in that little church it was news, weather, and bulls. The point - spiritual things should enter into our fellowship so that we are built up in the Lord.
The news, weather and sports will take care of themselves, but spiritual growth requires other topics for furtherance.
We are to do this so that your conversation is giving grace or good to the hearer, rather than negativity, venom and trash.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
The reason for this call to purity of speech is so that we don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. He is within us to assist, teach and guide, and if we don’t live as a Christian ought we grieve Him - we ignore Him - we thumb our nose at Him. Not a great situation to be in Christian.
It is the Holy Spirit which seals us in our salvation. We are guaranteed by His seal. Why would a believer ever go against the Spirit, yet we often do just that.
Redemption is the thought of purchase back or buy back - to pay a price for something. We are sealed unto the day of redemption when we are finally, completely removed from this life and world and transferred to the next. We are sealed or guaranteed to that last day - nothing is going to change that destination. Why would we ever want to grieve the One that is responsible for doing this great thing for us spiritually? Sin is the choice and we all too often make it.
Often, on internet forums I see questions about whether a certain act is grieving the Holy Spirit. The strict context here is the misuse of the tongue and those things just preceding the verse, but I suspect the Spirit is grieved anytime we step away from His assistance and leading. He is there to minister to us, so anytime we remove ourselves from His influence we are in essence turning our backs on Him.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
And another blast from Paul on the use of the tongue and mind. They are not for the gutter and world; they are for kindness toward one another. The use of "and" between each word seems to have a certain amount of force to it. He is making it very clear that each and every one of these things is to be put away, and put away with malice.
"Bitterness" comes from the idea of a bitter root that brings forth bitterness of fruit. Something that is sharp and very distasteful, something that spreads as it grows.
"Wrath" is that which boils up within and all too often explodes before subsiding. That which takes a serious toll on both the exploder and the explodee - nobody wins when wrath rules a Christian get together.
"Anger" seems to be the action of wrath. The wrath wells up and explodes into the anger that says, does, or doesn’t do something that will injure someone else. It is that which keeps the anger going.
I suspect that wrath can be a somewhat natural reaction to things external, but it should be controlled and stopped before it explodes. It should never find action.
"Clamour" is to cry out or an outcry. Again, this may relate to wrath and anger - that verbal explosion that often comes with anger.
"Evil speaking" is the word we gain blaspheme from. It is that which is evil speaking, or something that injures another. Again, this may relate to the wrath, anger and clamor. It may relate more to the content of the outcry - those cutting and injurious words that go so deep when they strike the one they are aimed at.
"Malice" is malicious, or malignant, a vicious eating thing.
PUT IT ALL AWAY - STUFF IT - PUT A SOCK IN IT if you want a more up to date term or two, though there are probably more modern terms.
These things should not be a part of any Christian’s life, nor should it be a part of any Christian gathering, be it two or three or the entire congregation.
"Put away" is of interest. It is an aorist, thus indicating a one time act; however it is also passive indicating that the putting away is accomplished by some force acting upon us. The Holy Spirit is the one that will accomplish this within us as we allow him complete control. The one time nature of this has some serious applications to us.
It would indicate that this is accomplished and that it should never need to be accomplished again - think of that - we should never allow wrath to produce anything without. It may well up within us for a moment, but it should never seep out to others. We may have been explosive in our old nature, but not now, not now that we are His.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
No! We can’t lie to one another, we can’t mean mouth one another, and now he wants us to be kind to one another - where will this madness end? Where did Paul gain his education, it certainly wasn’t meant for the two thousands!
Paul continues with the marks of a believer and they aren’t the marks of many Christians today. We are to be:
"Kind one to another" means simply to be kind. One meaning of the word is to be useful. Be useful to one another and be available for the use of others. Treat them as you like to be treated. A kind word, a kind deed, a kind smile - well not one, but that should be our lifestyle - kind words, kind acts, and kind facial features.
In our "If you see them signaling speed up" society this idea of kindness may be something we need to cultivate - something we have to consciously decide to do and then practice it daily for awhile till it becomes our way of life.
"Tenderhearted" is translated pitiful in 1 Peter 3:8 "Finally, [be ye] all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, [be] pitiful, [be] courteous:" It can indicate "strong bowels" according to the Lexicons. Having guts would be our version of the word.
How does tenderhearted and having guts relate to one another is the question? In our "Men don’t cry." mindset, it would take guts to be tenderhearted. I suspect it relates to the thought that to be tenderhearted and to put up with the emotions/feelings of helping those that are in need will take some strong character and fortitude.
Working with one that is on their death bed takes some real emotional investment and cost when the person finally dies. Working with someone in the throws of divorce will take time and emotion as well, and may well end in the gut wrenching end of divorce.
Being tenderhearted would be to be open to hurt with others, open to assist others, and open to share the cost with others. The women that provide a dinner for families at a funeral are tenderhearted. The people that visit the sick in the hospital are tenderhearted (unless they are doing it because they think they are supposed to do it.). The person that helps the lost child find their parent is tenderhearted.
If all believers began treating other believers with a tender heart we would have a church that is ministering to one another rather than a church full of bickering, confusion and turmoil.
"Forgiving one another" is a costly position to be in, but it is the place for every believer. Christ suggested forgiving seventy times seven times, thus this is an ongoing item of life. Any disrespect, any short word, any nasty look, and any wrong should be forgiven.
This isn’t all that easy to accomplish when there are so many wrongs that are never righted. Righting a wrong isn’t your purpose in life however your purpose is to forgive. God will deal with those that wrong us.
The forgiving of the believer is the same word used of God forgiving us, with the minor exception that when God forgave us it was a permanent one time act of forgiveness, while we are called upon to forgive on a continuing basis. God yet forgives us for our personal ongoing sin, but this forgiveness speaks to his salvation forgiveness.
The use of the same word speaks to the completeness of our forgiveness of one another - a hard saying, but one which we are called to accomplish in our lives.
"For Christ’s sake" indicates that because Christ did the work and because He loved us God forgave us. That is true in a sense, but God’s forgiveness was not based on this need/desire of Christ, but rather was founded squarely on His decrees, and His predestination of us. The term "for" and the term "sake" are general prepositions that can be translated a number of ways so the text does not really indicate what the English seems to. The ASV translates it this way: "and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you." Darby and Young also follow a similar translation.
And to top it off we are to forgive as God has forgiven us - not forgive with a grudge to satisfy us till we get over it - complete - on the spot - forgiveness.
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Ephesians 4". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany