June 7, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ephesians 4-6.
Background: Ephesians 1-3.
1. Unity of the body of Christ: The first section of this chapter might be considered the penultimate point of the discussion on unity, as Paul draws it all together here to make an explicit statement about unity. Before he gets to that statement, however, there is a very important preparation that we should not overlook. Unity was not just something that Paul advocated or just a good thing to strive for, but rather it is walking in a manner that is worthy of our calling in Christ. It is not just a suggestion that would make some things better, but rather the essence of our maturity in Christ. Notice the characteristics that Paul gives in order to walk worthily: humility, gentleness patience and love. Then comes his penultimate statement about unity. Paul gives seven ones, and if there is anything that we as the body of Christ need to agree upon it is these seven ones: One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father. Grace is distributed according to the measure of Christ’s gift, as unity does not mean we all have to do the same thing for the body of Christ (note the different roles that Paul gives here, see also I Corinthians 12:12-31). Notice what Paul connects next: the understanding and obtaining of this unity is maturity in Christ. When we strive to seek unity and when we begin to obtain the unity that Paul speaks of here, our journey to mature manhood is underway. This maturity is needed so that we are not swayed by fleeting and untrue doctrines as children that are not grounded in faith. When we reach this maturity through unity, the body as a whole begins to work together just as it was designed to do. Let us ever strive for this unity in Christ, that we might bring glory to Him throughout all the world.
2. The new self: After speaking about unity, Paul gives the reason why we should seek this maturity in Christ. When we are baptized into Christ, we are dying to our old self and raising again as a new creation (see Romans 6:1-11). We raise to a new life, one that is to serve Christ and grow in His knowledge and love (see Colossians 2-3). We are not to walk in the habits of our former lives, nor enter into the pleasures of this life that are not right in the sight of God. We are not to follow the world. Notice the emphasis Paul puts on anger here, how it can even lead to strong holds for the devil. Whereas anger is not a sin in and of itself, it can lead to making decisions that we should not make. Paul tells us here not to stay angry for very long. We are to speak the truth in love, always working for the building up and not tearing down. Our speech should be pure with no corrupt talk tainting our lips, for we are to be holy. Let us learn to put aside bitterness, wrath and malice, and forgive one another in the way that Christ has forgiven us.
1. The Christian walk: Continuing on the idea of putting on the new self which was started in the previous chapter, Paul here gives some “do nots” along with some further instruction to walk in a way that pleases God, discerning His will for us. He focuses here on avoiding sexual immorality and impure talking, as they often go hand in hand, or at least one often leads to the other. We are to walk as children of the light, not being deceived by the empty words of the world, though they promise pleasure and fun. We have escaped that world of bondage to sin and we are to remain free in Christ. We are to be diligent in self reflection, watching how we walk, making the best use of our time; we are not to be foolish or drunk with wine, but rather are to work for the building up of the body of Christ, addressing one another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, always giving thanks to God.
2. Unity in differing roles: Notice that most of the letter up until this point dealt with the unity of the brotherhood, specifically the unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians, as we all are one in Christ Jesus. Now Paul changes gear a little bit and begins to discuss different roles that different members of the body play. However, these roles, though different from one another, are so that the body works together as one whole, and thus Paul is still addressing unity here in a way. The two roles he discusses here are that of a husband and wife, with the husband as the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the Church. Paul is not implying here that men are superior to women, but rather that each of them has a different role to play. While the responsibly of the house is ultimately laid on the husband’s shoulders, the husband is to love his wife as he loves himself, implying a crucial role for the wife in the decision making process. Wives are told to submit to their husbands, just as the church submits to Christ. Submission does not imply inferiority, as some may suggest, as Christ submitted to the will of the Father, which in no way implied inferiority. There are simply different roles that are necessary.
1.Glorifying God in our situation: Continuing on with glorifying God through our different roles, Paul uses the opening of this chapter to teach about more roles that different people in the church might play. Notice that in each of the roles, the emphasis that Paul makes is on glorifying God. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord, that they may please the Lord. Fathers are not supposed to provoke their children to wrath, but bring them up in the Lord. Servants are supposed to serve their masters with a sincere heart, just as if they were serving Christ, and masters were not to be harsh towards their servants, as they too were servants of the King. In every situation, the people were to use where they were to glorify God. Let us do the same.
2. The armor of God: Finishing the letter, Paul closes with a reminder of who we are fighting against. We do not fight against flesh and blood, or our fellow man, but rather we fight a spiritual war, against Satan and his army who strive to tear us down. What is a better unifier than a common enemy? Too often do we mistake people, people who are just like us, for our enemy. We are not fighting against people, but against the spiritual powers of darkness. When we keep this in mind, it can be easier to deal gently with people, and speak to them in love. Since we are fighting a spiritual war, it makes sense that we would take on the spiritual armor of God so that we might be able to stand in the day of battle. Each of the elements of the armor of God are elements that we should study and consider, just as we would properly fit a true set of armor. And with this armor, we go out and boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel of Christ, which has been reveled to us in these latter days. After making a few losing remarks, Paul finishes his letter to the Ephesians.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 37-40.
Let us be unified in Christ.