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Jurnalul Electronic Al Păstorilor, Rom Ed 32, Editia de Vară 2019

Ediția de Vară, 2019

“Întărind Biserica în Predicare biblică și conducere”

Author: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 519-620-2375

Partea I: Consolidarea Predicării Expozitive

„Folosirea aplicațiilor” (Partea 1)

Introducere

Aplicarea adevărurilor biblice explicate în predică este adesea partea cea mai slabă a predicilor. Dacă adevărul nu este concretizat, vizualizat, personalizat și actualizat, predica nu este decât o expunere a unui adevăr abstract și rămâne în sfera filosofiei (idei, concepte, truisme).

Poate Că Aplicația Este Adesea Atât De Slabă Pentru Că…

1) Petrecem atât de mult timp făcând exegeză încât ne este greu să facem trecerea de la teoretic la practic.

2) Acumulăm atât de multe informații din studiul exegetic, încât nu ne mai rămâne timp să mai transmitem și altceva.

3) Simțim o tensiune între teorie și practică.

4) Prețuim atât de mult adevărul în sine și ne bucurăm de el ca atare, încât simțim că îl degradăm dacă îl aplicăm.

5) Ne este teamă de răspunsul ascultătorilor. Atunci când facem aplicații specifice, o facem într-un mod mai personal, ceea ce poate genera uneori răspunsuri negative, pentru că atingem nervi, scoatem răni la iveală și activăm conștiințe.

6) Pentru a aplica Scriptura altora, trebuie să o înțelegem mai întâi și să ne-o aplicăm nouă, înainte de a o aplica altora. Și lucrul acesta poate fi dureros.

Tendința este fie să accentuăm expunerea, fie aplicația. Unii predicatori stau prea mult la explicarea textului, pe când alții se concentrează pe aplicații. Pe de o parte, predicatorii care își fac temele în ce privește pregătirea predicii și care petrec foarte mult timp încercând să afle ce vrea să spună textul, pot avea tendința să se concentreze pe explicare (învățare) și să neglijeze aplicația. Pe de altă parte, predicatorii care petrec prea puțin timp studiind textul, pot fi înclinați să se concentreze pe aplicații (semnificație) și să neglijeze explicarea textului.

Predicarea presupune atât expunere, cât și aplicare. Dacă nu aplici adevărurile pe care le explici, atunci nu reușești să arăți în ce fel adevărul este relevant pentru viața ascultătorilor. Trebuie să explicăm semnificația textului și relevanța sa pentru viața de zi cu zi. Oamenii vor și au nevoie ca adevărul să fie aplicat la situațiile lor de viață – la relațiile lor, la gândurile, obiceiurile, credințele și problemele lor etc.

A prezenta doar explicația, fără aplicație, înseamnă a nu duce predica la bun sfârșit. A face exegeza fără a te gândi la aplicarea sa, înseamnă a face lucrul pe jumătate. Atunci când studiezi textul pentru a-i înțelege semnificația, trebuie să te gândești și la semnificația sa pentru realitățile practice. Nu poți studia Scriptura fără să o legi de viața contemporană, pentru că adevărul acolo este trăit. Pentru aceasta există Scriptura – ca să fie ascultată.

Dacă nu facem trecerea de la lumea biblică la lumea contemporană, îi lăsăm pe ascultători în contextul antic al textului biblic, fără vreun folos, decât cel intelectual.

Predicarea Biblică Trebuie Să Treacă De La „Ce” La „Și Ce”, Iar Apoi La „Acum Ce?”

Atunci când explicăm adevărul, ne ocupăm de conținutul său (ce înseamnă adevărul?). Atunci când aplicăm adevărul, arătăm care este relevanța sa (de ce contează lucrul acesta?). Atunci când aducem adevărul în actualitate, arătăm ce ne cere nouă acum adevărul (ce trebuie să facem noi acum și cum ar trebui să ne schimbe acest adevăr).

Unii vor spune că Duhul Sfânt face aplicația, nu noi. Sigur, dacă Duhul Sfânt nu aplică Cuvântul în inima, mintea, conștiința și voința ascultătorilor, predicarea noastră nu va avea nici un efect. În fond, doar aplicarea Cuvântului de către Duhul Sfânt poate schimba vieți. Însă același lucru poate fi spus despre predicarea evangheliei – numai Duhul Sfânt o poate face eficientă, așa că, unii ar putea întreba: de ce să mai predicăm evanghelia?

O predicăm pentru că predicarea este mijlocul ales de Dumnezeu pentru a ne transmite Cuvântul Său (Rom. 10:14-15), atât semnificația, cât și aplicația sa. Duhul Sfânt folosește instrumente umane pentru a transmite atât explicarea, cât și aplicarea textului. Predicatorul are responsabilitatea de a arăta oamenilor cum se aplică în mod concret Cuvântul în viața lor.

Aplicația Este O Componentă Indispensabilă A Predicării Biblice Pentru Că…

1) Leagă adevărul textului de situația de viață a ascultătorilor. Datoria noastră este să înțelegem contextul și scopul autorului și să găsim modul în care mesajul se aplică astăzi bisericii noastre. În felul acesta, legi ceea ce tocmai ai explicat din text de modul în care adevărul respectiv influențează viața ascultătorilor.

2) Face legătura între poruncile date de Dumnezeu poporului Său în trecut și poruncile Sale pentru noi astăzi.

3) Leagă sfatul înțelept al Scripturii cu realitatea vieții omului – nevoia lui de bucurie; de intimitate cu Dumnezeu; de relații vindecate; de ascultare față de Cuvânt; de speranță în Hristos etc.

4) Răspunde obiecțiilor de tipul „și ce?” – adică, „Ce are asta de-a face cu mine?” sau „Ce trebuie să fac sau să schimb ca răspuns la învățătura Scripturii?”

5) Face trecerea de la adevărul biblic la trăirea creștină.

6) Clarifică modul în care adevărul biblic ce a fost explicat influențează felul care creștinul se poartă la magazin, acasă, la școală, în cartier etc. Așa de mulți oameni vin duminica la biserică, însă în restul timpului trăiesc ca niște necreștini. De aceea este atât de importantă aplicația.

7) Transformă principiul învățat într-o practică ce trebuie urmată - o doctrină ce trebuie crezută; o atitudine ce trebuie însușită; o relație ce trebuie schimbată etc.

În Aplicație, Îi Îndemnăm Pe Oameni…

a) Îi îndemnăm pe oameni să „vizualizeze” / concretizeze adevărul pe care l-au auzit. Acceptarea adevărului nu înseamnă doar o aprobare rațională, ci o schimbare reală, o transformare a vieții. Cu ce îi ajută pe oameni dacă înțeleg adevărul, dar nu fac nimic în privința asta? Datoria noastră este să îi ajutăm să vadă (să vizualizeze) adevărul (cum arată el în viața reală), trecând de la adevăr ca filozofie abstractă la o realitate concretă, tangibilă din viața reală.

Ajutându-i pe oameni să „concretizeze” adevărul, îi ajuți, de fapt, să evite impresiile subiective cu privire la ceea ce „îmi vorbește Dumnezeu”, fără a încerca să determini ce aplicație concretă a intenționat să facă autorul textului. Lucrul acesta este foarte greu pentru mulți predicatori – să demonstreze adevărul biblic în moduri tangibile, care țin de experiența concretă; să lege adevărul de viața de zi cu zi a oamenilor.

Noi trebuie să arătăm oamenilor cum arată adevărul, pentru ca ei să îl vadă și să se poată raporta la el în viața lor personală. Vrem ca ei să poată spune: „Da, lucrul acesta se întâmplă în viața mea. Am nevoie de asta. Mă confrunt cu asta.” Vrem ca ei să întrupeze adevărul, adică să îl trăiască. În definitiv, trăirea creștină în totalitatea sa este o întrupare, nu-i așa? Trăirea creștină înseamnă a fi precum Hristos, ceea ce înseamnă ca adevărul lui Hristos să se manifeste în viața noastră.

Marea întrebare este: „Cum putem face asta?” Putem face lucrul acesta arătând situații „concrete” și exemple care să acopere spectrul de viață al ascultătorilor (ținând cont de vârsta lor, statutul lor, locurile lor de muncă, relațiile lor, economia etc.). Aceste exemple îi ajută să vizualizeze lucrurile despre care am vorbit.

b) Îi îndemnăm pe oameni să personalizeze adevărul pe care l-au auzit. Ne dorim ca ei să ajungă să spună: „Da. Eu am nevoie de asta. Eu vreau să fiu așa sau să fac asta ori să ascult, sau să cred asta” etc.

c) Îi îndemnăm pe oameni să actualizeze adevărul pe care l-au auzit. Vrem ca ei să îl primească, să îl practice, să îl transpună în realitate. Noi îi chemăm pe oameni să se supună Cuvântului și să îl asculte, pentru că adevărul trebuie ascultat. Îi chemăm pe oameni să răspundă cu ascultare și cu acțiune concretă, pentru ca viața lor să se conformeze adevărului. Noi îi ajutăm să „actualizeze” adevărul, invitându-i și provocându-i să se decidă într-un mod practic să își schimbe viața conform cu impactul pe care mesajul l-a avut asupra lor.

A. Aplicația Trebuie Să Fie În Conformitate Cu Textul Biblic

Predicarea expozitivă nu constă în prezentarea unui comentariu, cu scopul de a transmite informații. Scopul său este să aplice principiile explicate din text la viața credinciosului. Desigur, nu poți aplica principiile fără a explica mai întâi conținutul adevărului din care derivă aceste principii. Nu poți explica cum se aplică adevărul, fără a explica conținutul său. Nu poți insista pe ceea ce trebuie să facă creștinul, fără a cunoaște doctrina care stă la baza a ceea ce are el de făcut. Așadar, aplicația trebuie să se „bazeze pe” textul biblic din care predici. Probabil că aceasta este una din cele mai mari greșeli care se fac astăzi în predicare. Predicatorii schimbă brusc subiectul atunci când fac aplicația, fără a fi explicat mai întâi semnificația textului, într-un mod satisfăcător, corect și clar. Dacă ascultătorii nu înțeleg semnificația textului (acesta reprezentând autoritatea din spatele predicii noastre), cum ne putem aștepta să îl asculte?

Apoi, aplicația nu trebuie doar să se „bazeze pe” textul biblic, ci aplicația trebuie și să fie „limitată de” textul biblic. Cu alte cuvinte, aplicația este limitată la subiectul și sfera textului studiat. Aplicația trebuie să se bazeze pe adevărul textului biblic și trebuie făcută în mod corespunzător. Nu ai libertatea să faci orice aplicație vrei din orice text. Așa cum expunerea este limitată de contextul și subiectul textului biblic, tot așa este și aplicația. Altfel spus, aplicația trebuie să curgă din explicarea textului.

Acestea fiind spuse, cred că avem libertatea să „întindem” aplicația destul de mult în cadrul granițelor intenției generale a autorului și a subiectului textului. Astfel, avem libertatea să aplicăm textul la multe situații de viață și provocări cu care se confruntă ascultătorii, rămânând în același timp fideli textului.

Una din modalitățile prin care putem „întinde” aplicația în mod legitim este prin folosirea deducției logice. Astfel, aplicația include „implicația” care, prin definiție, îți oferă un orizont mai larg pentru aplicație. Noi am fost creați cu capacitatea de a raționa. Prin urmare…

1) Fă aplicații logice! Arată cum te conduce textul la aplicația logică pe care o faci.

2) Fă aplicații concrete! Dă exemple!

Când ascultă o predică, ascultătorul vrea să știe trei lucruri:

1) Despre ce predici? (tema dominantă a textului – i.e. subiectul textului).

2) Care este argumentarea ta? (ideile care alcătuiesc textul – i.e. punctele principale și secundare).

3) Ce vrei să fac? (ideea motivatoare a textului – aplicația și scopul său în viața mea).

Nu uita, nu ai niciun drept să îi inviți pe oameni să răspundă la un adevăr pe care nu l-ai explicat și pe care ei nu îl înțeleg și, prin urmare, nu îl pot vizualiza.

B. Aplicația Trebuie Să Fie Bine Gândită

Ca predicatori expozitivi, noi trebuie să gândim foarte bine atât expunerea textului, cât și aplicarea sa.

1. Aplicația Trebuie Să Fie „Personală”

Pentru asta trebuie să confruntăm, fără să divizăm sau să ofensăm. Aplicația cere acceptare personală și ascultare de adevăr. Prin urmare, ascultătorii trebuie:

a) Să primească mesajul.

b) Să-și însușească mesajul – i.e. să se gândească la impactul pe care acesta îl are în viața lor.

c) Să identifice lucrurile care trebuie schimbate, întrebându-se ce trebuie să facă în privința lor.

d) Să decidă să se schimbe și să-și planifice lucrul acesta. Poate că va fi nevoie să dea socoteală cuiva sau să-și schimbe programul ori obiceiurile etc.

Pentru ca aplicația să fie personală, este important să încerci să te adresezi tuturor ascultătorilor în termeni personali și concreți cu privire la viața lor. Gândește-te cum poți să aplici predica la viața lor personală, la viața de familie, la munca lor, la viața bisericii și a comunității. De asemenea, încearcă să aplici predica la mintea și inima ascultătorilor – de pildă, la atitudini, credințe, relații (cu Dumnezeu și cu semenii), comportament, dorințe, motivații, valori, priorități și caracter.

2. Aplicația Trebuie Să Fie „Practică”

Vorbim aici despre modul în care oamenii trebuie să răspundă. Nu este suficient să le transmitem doar ce au de făcut, ci trebuie să le spunem și cum să facă. Tendința este să rămânem la prima parte. Este foarte important să le spunem ce au de făcut, însă predica nu se rezumă la atât.

a) Trebuie să existe o chemare la pocăință biblică atât pentru credincioși, cât și pentru necredincioși.

b) Trebuie să existe o chemare la reînnoire biblică. Orice predicare trebuie să fie un timp de reînnoire și trezire a credinciosului și de regenerare a necredinciosului.

c) Trebuie să existe o chemare la realitatea biblică. Deoarece trăim în epoca creștinismului cultural, nu biblic, există o tendință în societatea noastră către un creștinism artificial. Predicatorii trebuie să îi cheme pe oameni la realitatea biblică.

3. Aplicația Trebuie Să „Aibă Un Scop”

Predicarea noastră trebuie să aibă un scop, o țintă. Toate textele biblice arată înspre Hristos (Col. 1:27-29). Acesta este scopul principal și fundamental al predicării, pentru ca atunci când oamenii pleacă, să se asemene mai mult cu Hristos. Acesta este scopul principal al predicării.

C. Aplicația Trebuie Să Îi Determine Pe Oameni Să Acționeze

Orice predică trebuie să acționeze în patru direcții pentru a activa aplicația personală în ascultători, determinându-i la ascultare:

1. Predicarea Trebuie Să Educe „Mintea” (Discernământul)

Orice predică trebuie să educe, să forțeze mintea să se gândească la lucruri pe care nu le-a înțeles până atunci sau la care nu s-a gândit mai înainte. Hrana tare („carnea”) este pentru cei maturi (Evr. 5:14). Trebuie să progresezi și să treci dincolo de ABC-ul creștinismului. Predicarea superficială produce creștini superficiali.

2. Predicarea Trebuie Să Atingă „Inima” (Dorința)

Pentru a „determina” pe cineva să acționeze, trebuie să îi atingi inima. Inima este organul principal al vieții fizice. „Inima” este termenul care descrie izvoarele ascunse ale vieții umane și sfera influenței divine.

Pentru a determina ascultătorul să se „miște” (să acționeze), trebuie să îi atingi inima. Mintea nu va face asta de una singură. Inima este marele motivator.

A predica inimii înseamnă a da ascultătorilor posibilitatea de a se identifica cu personajele și cu ideile din textul biblic și de a-și însuși principiile din text. Aceasta implică, evident, mutarea dinspre general înspre particular.

În Scriptură, „inima” reprezintă locul unde se iau decizii și unde se fac alegeri. Este locul unde se întâlnesc mintea și voința. Nu este suficient să forțăm mintea, ci trebuie să atingem și inima.

Accentul cade aici pe dorință mai degrabă decât pe discernământ. Predică pentru a motiva inima să răspundă! Inima trebuie stârnită și, pentru asta, trebuie să predici cu multă pasiune!

3. Predicarea Trebuie Să Îndrume „Voința” (Decizia)

Nu este suficient să educi mintea și să atingi inima. Trebuie, de asemenea, să îndrumi, să îndrepți atenția și să modelezi voința astfel încât să se supună autorității Cuvântului, să moară față de sine și să trăiască pentru Hristos, să renunțe la firea pământească și să se îmbrace cu natura cea nouă (Gal. 2:20; Efes. 4:22-24).

Dacă sunt atinse doar mintea și inima, nu este suficient. Trebuie ca voința să fie direcționată înspre supunere de bunăvoie față de adevărul Cuvântului și, implicit, înspre o trăire a adevărului său.

4. Predicarea Trebuie Să Stimuleze „Conștiința” (Identificare)

Conștiința este o unealtă puternică atunci când vine vorba de aplicație. Este un motivator puternic, care detectează unde au eșuat oamenii în ascultarea față de adevăr. De asemenea, arată unde ar putea exista un păcat ce trebuie judecat în viața unui om.

Astfel, predicarea biblică va activa conștiința, pentru ca oamenii să răspundă cu ascultare.

Concluzii

Aplicația trebuie să fie personală, practică și să își propună să atingă întreaga personalitate – mintea, inima, voința și conștiința. Inima este cea care motivează spre acțiune, însă dacă poți îmbina convingerea minții cu dorința inimii, atunci aceasta este o forță chiar mai puternică ce poate activa conștiința și care, la rândul ei, poate motiva o persoană să își supună voința pentru a asculta de adevăr.

D. Cel Mai Bine Este Ca Aplicațiile Să Fie Făcute Pe Parcursul Predicii

Aplicând adevărul de-a lungul predicii, ascultătorii nu vor uita principiul care guvernează aplicația. Principiul și practica sunt aduse astfel împreună. De asemenea, în felul acesta legi strâns aplicația de textul pe care tocmai l-ai explicat. Lucrul acesta conferă o mai mare autoritate aplicației, deoarece textul este cel care vorbește, nu tu.

Unii predicatori fac aplicația la sfârșitul predicii. Se poate și așa, însă lucrul acesta are câteva dezavantaje:

1) Dacă întotdeauna procedezi așa, ascultătorii își vor da seama repede de lucrul acesta și îți vei pierde impactul, pentru că ei își vor pierde interesul („O, din nou!”). Eu sugerez ca aplicația de la sfârșitul predicii să slujească doar ca o întărire și o reconfirmare a aplicațiilor făcute de-a lungul predicii.

2) Dacă procedezi așa, separi explicarea adevărului de aplicarea sa, iar ascultătorii nu le vor putea lega una de cealaltă în mod intuitiv.

Eu recomand să aplici adevărul în mod continuu, de la introducere până la încheierea predicii.

1) În „introducere”, faci aplicație atunci când…

a) Arăți nevoia de a asculta această predică; nevoia de a predica acest mesaj.

b) Faci legătura cu textul biblic.

c) Prezinți „ideea principală a predicii”.

2) În „cuprins”, faci aplicație la fiecare adevăr enunțat…

a) În redactarea fiecărui punct principal și punct secundar. Acestea ar trebui să fie redactate în formă aplicativă – i.e. în așa fel încât ascultătorii să fie incluși, să se vadă pe ei înșiși în adevărul enunțat.

b) Pe parcursul sau la sfârșitul explicării fiecărui punct principal.

c) În ilustrații și exemple.

3. În „încheiere”, faci aplicație…

a) Atunci când sumarizezi predica.

b) Atunci când aduci predica în actualitate și o pui într-un registru personal pentru ultima dată.

E. De Ce Este Atât De Dificilă Folosirea Aplicației?

1. Pentru Că Este Dificil! Este O Muncă Grea Pentru Că:

a) Cere acuratețe față de Scriptură.

b) Trebuie să fie relevantă pentru oameni și pentru cultura în care ei trăiesc.

c) Cere introspecție personală și onestitate.

2. Pentru Că Predicatorii Cred Că Aplicația Este Observată În Mod Intuitiv

Este ușor să te gândești că legătura dintre explicarea textului și aplicarea sa practică în viața ascultătorilor tăi va fi observată în mod intuitiv și nu trebuie, așadar, afirmată, pentru că ascultătorii o pot deduce și singuri. Este ușor să presupui că ascultătorii „pricep” impactul pe care adevărul îl are în viața lor.

Adesea, însă, lucrurile stau altfel. Aplicațiile nu îți sar în ochi, tot așa cum nici principiile nu o fac. Cineva trebuie să ți le scoată în evidență.

3. Pentru Că Predicatorii Înțeleg Greșit Scopul Predicării.

Scopul predicării este schimbarea vieților oamenilor pentru a se asemăna mai mult cu Hristos și facem lucrul acesta prin explicarea adevărului și prin indicarea modului în care acesta ar trebui să ne schimbe. Aceasta este aplicația.

Aplicația este mijlocul prin care legăm adevărul biblic de viața de zi cu zi a ascultătorilor. Aceasta înseamnă să indicăm prin exemple concrete cum arată adevărul în viața oamenilor noștri, să-i îndemnăm să se schimbe, să le arătăm greșelile, numindu-le concret, să mustrăm atitudinile și relațiile greșite etc.

Nu uita, întreaga teologie este extraordinar de practică. Scopul său este aibă impact asupra comportamentului omului, asupra dorințelor, priorităților, valorilor, scopurilor, relațiilor sale etc.

O predică bună nu explică doar adevărul, ci și arată ce are acesta de-a face cu „mine”. O predică atent construită și completă duce la aplicații. Adevărul trebuie să fie ascultat (Rom. 6:17). Aceasta este ceea ce va schimba viețile oamenilor – nu redactarea inteligentă a unor puncte principale, ci aplicarea la viața reală a adevărului care îi face pe oameni să se schimbe.

4. Pentru Că Predicatorii Trebuie Să Se Gândească La Aplicații Înainte De A Predica.

Prea mulți predicatori cred că pot face aplicațiile din zbor, însă nu se poate. Acestea trebuie să fie bine gândite dinainte, deoarece ai în față o mulțime de oameni aflați în diferite situații de viață și trebuie să te adresezi tuturor. În biserică se află…

a) Tineri, oameni de vârstă mijlocie, bătrâni

b) Profesioniști, muncitori, oameni care lucrează la birou sau în fabrică etc.

c) Căsătoriți, necăsătoriți, oameni divorțați sau despărțiți de partenerul de viață

d) Tineri în ascensiune, pensionari

e) Familii, cupluri, necăsătoriți.

f) Elevi de școală generală, elevi de liceu sau studenți

g) Bogați, săraci și oameni din clasa de mijloc.

Pentru a aplica în mod eficient Cuvântul la o asemenea diversitate de oameni este nevoie de o gândire atentă înainte de predicare.

F. Cum Descoperim Aplicațiile

Întrebarea la care ajungem acum este: Atunci când expui fiecare principiu din text, cum ajungi la aplicații? Cum descoperi aplicațiile la viața reală, rămânând în același timp fidel subiectului textului, precum și intenției autorului?

Ca principiu general, sugerez ca aplicarea principiului biblic să se încadreze în sfera aplicației textului original. Lucrul acesta arată cât de important este să descoperi cu exactitate subiectul textului. Trebuie să existe o legătură directă între explicarea principiilor pe care le predici și aplicațiile pe care le faci.

În primul rând, începe prin a-ți pune următoarele întrebări:

a) Despre ce a scris autorul?

b) De ce a scris autorul lucrul acesta oamenilor acelora?

c) În ce situații de viață se aflau oamenii care aveau nevoie să fie îndreptați, încurajați, mângâiați, încredințați, mustrați, îndrumați etc.?

e) Cum a aplicat autorul aceste principii la viața cititorilor săi?

f) La ce răspuns se aștepta autorul și ce voia de la ei?

Răspunsurile la aceste întrebări stabilesc parametrii aplicației tale.

În al doilea rând, descoperă aplicațiile contemporane întrebându-te:

a) Ce adevăruri universale, nepieritoare din text au legătură directă cu viața de astăzi?

b) Ce situații contemporane, provocări, întrebări etc. sunt de natură asemănătoare cu cele ale audienței originale? În ce fel ascultătorii noștri contemporani experimentează aceleași situații ca și destinatarii originali?

În al treilea rând, mergi de la implicațiile generale către aplicații specifice și personale. Poate că implicațiile generale ale adevărului prezentat vorbesc despre viața de acasă, de la serviciu sau de la biserică etc. a fiecăruia. Acesta este un lucru bun, însă te-aș încuraja să mergi chiar mai departe de-atât, încercând să găsești aplicații specifice la viața în cultura și în circumstanțele în care te găsești. Aceasta este partea mai grea; așadar, cum poți să faci asta?

Repet, studiezi aplicațiile personale ale adevărului, punând următoarele întrebări:

a) Ce înseamnă adevărul acesta pentru oamenii mei în viața lor de zi cu zi?

b) Ce provocări, nevoi, stiluri de viață, credințe și situații din biserică trebuie să fie tratate - fie personale, economice, congregaționale, spirituale, etice, legate de comunitate, relații, etc.

c) Unde poate fi aplicat acest adevăr în viețile noastre?

În al patrulea rând, gândește-te la răspunsul pe care îl aștepți și îl vrei de la ascultătorii tăi. Cum vrei să își schimbe valorile, prioritățile, relațiile, credințele, atitudinile, practicile, motivele, dorințele, caracterul etc.?

În cele din urmă, provoacă-ți ascultătorii să se întrebe:

a) Ce vrea Dumnezeu să fac cu privire la acest adevăr?

b) Cum pot să realizez această schimbare? Ce trebuie să fac?

c) Cum să încep?

G. Cum Să Predici Aplicațiile Pe Care Le Descoperi

1. Trebuie Să Îți Cunoști Oamenii Și Biserica

Când îți pui întrebările de mai sus, nu te gândești doar la viața ta, ci mai ales la viața oamenilor din biserica ta.

Așadar, atunci când îți pui întrebările (căutând aplicații relevante), trebuie să îi ai în minte pe oameni, imaginându-ți-i în biserică sau uitându-te în registrul membral, amintindu-ți situațiile lor de viață, nevoile, problemele, provocările lor etc.

2. În Urma Acestui Exercițiu, Îți Întocmești O Listă De Aplicații Potrivite

Acum aplici textul la nevoi reale, ce corespund cu nevoile la care face referire textul. Aceste aplicații nu vor identifica o persoană anume din biserică și nici nu vor divulga secrete încredințate. Ele vor avea tot un caracter mai general, însă cercul se restrânge mai mult, arătând cum se aplică principiile respective dând exemple de moduri în care acestea s-ar putea aplica la oamenii tăi în anumite situații.

De pildă, ai putea spune: „Dacă trăiești o viață sfântă, vei arăta lucrul acesta la locul de muncă… (de exemplu, având un comportament cuviincios față de persoanele de sex opus”) etc. etc. Apoi poți sugera câteva modalități de a pune în practică aceste aplicații.

Exemplele concrete folosite în aplicații îi vor îndemna pe ascultători să le transfere în propriile lor situații de viață.

3. Încearcă Să Dai Suficiente Exemple Pentru A Acoperi Întregul Spectru Al Bisericii

Lucrul acesta se realizează adresându-te tuturor, ținând cont de vârstă, stare civilă, statut economic etc. Există patru categorii care îi cuprind pe toți:

a) Școală

b) Loc de muncă

c) Acasă

d) Comunitate

4. Nu Uita Să Îți Formulezi Punctele Ca Aplicații, Dacă Este Posibil

Acest lucru prezintă câteva avantaje:

a) Folosirea aplicațiilor va fi un proces continuu de-a lungul predicii, nu doar în anumite părți ale acesteia.

b) Principiile stabilite în punctele principale vor fi personalizate și nu vor rămâne doar niște adevăruri abstracte.

c) Punctele tale principale vor avea mai mult impact.

Concluzii Cu Privire La Aplicații

Teologia, predicată în mod corect, este foarte practică. Biblia nu a fost scrisă doar pentru a ne umple capul de cunoștințe, ci și pentru a schimba felul în care trăim, gândim și acționăm. Cu alte cuvinte, fiecare predică ar trebui să ne ajute să ne asemănăm mai mult cu Hristos, urmând adevărurile universale și eterne ale Scripturii. De aceea, trebuie să explicăm textul în mod clar și corect și să îl aplicăm relevant și personal.

Partea A II-A: Schițe De Predici

Pentru versiunea audio a acestor predici în limba engleză, dați click pe următoarele link-uri: Link 1 - Jn. 21:15-17; Link 2 - Jn. 21:18-19; Link 3 - Jn. 21:19-25

Titlu: „Chemat la slujire”

Subiectul: Lecții în slujirea creștină

Punctul #1: Dovada slujirii creștine este dragostea față de Domnul (15-17)

a) În ciuda slabei noastre loialități, Isus prețuiește dragostea noastră

b) În ciuda slabei noastre loialități, Isus vrea ca noi să Îl slujim

Punctul #2: Scopul slujirii creștine este glorificarea Domnului (18-19a)

a) Noi trebuie să îl glorificăm pe El când suntem tineri (18a)

b) Noi trebuie să îl glorificăm pe El când suntem bătrâni (18b-19a)

Punctul #3: Modelul slujirii creștine este urmarea Lui (19b-23)

a) Îl urmăm pe El răspunzând chemării Lui (19b)

b) Îl urmăm pe El privind țintă la El (20)

c) Îl urmăm pe El văzându-ne de treaba noastră (21-23)

Related Topics: Pastors

The Net Pastors Journal, Rus Ed 32, Летнее издание 2019

Летнее Издание 2019

Служение Института Библейского Проповедования…

“Укреплять Церковь через библейскую проповедь и руководство”

Автор: Проф. Роджер Паскоу, Директор
Института Библейского Проповедования
Кембридж, Онтарио, Канада
Email: [email protected]
Тел.: 1-519-620-2375

Часть I: Усиливая Толкование Проповеди

“Усиливая применение” (Ч. 1)

Введение

Применение библейских истин, которые вы объясняете в своей проповеди, часто является самым слабым местом многих проповедей. Если истина не конкретизирована, не визуализирована, не персонализирована и не реализована, проповедь становится просто изложением абстрактной истины и остается в области философии (идеи, концепции, правды).

Возможно, Применение Часто Освещено Плохо, Потому Что ...

1) Мы тратим столько времени на толкование, что нам трудно перейти от теоретической части к практической.

2) Мы накапливаем так много толкований, что у нас нет времени на то, чтобы сообщить что-то еще.

3) Мы чувствуем напряжение между теорией и практикой.

4) Мы так высоко ценим истину, как истину вообще, и наслаждаемся ею чересчур, что ее применение, кажется, делает ее хуже.

5) Мы боимся реакции нашей аудитории. Когда мы становимся конкретными в применении, мы становимся личностными, и это иногда вызывает негативные реакции, потому что мы прикасаемся к нервам, выявляем больные места и активируем совесть.

6) Чтобы применять Писание к другим, мы должны сначала понять его и применить к себе, прежде чем применять его к другим. Это может быть больно.

Есть склонность делать упор либо на толковании, либо на применении. Некоторые проповедники придерживаются толкования; другие - сосредоточены на применении. С одной стороны, для проповедников, которые делают свою домашнюю работу по подготовке проповеди и которые тратят много времени на выяснение того, что означает текст, могут чересчур сосредотачиваться на толковании (обучении) и игнорировать применение. С другой стороны, те проповедники, которые тратят мало времени на изучение текста, тяготеют больше к применению (значимости) и пренебрегают толкованием (объяснением).

Проповедь включает в себя как толкование, так и применение. Если вы не применяете истину, которые вы объясняете, вы не сможете показать, как истину можно применить к жизни. Мы должны объяснить значение текста и его актуальность для повседневной жизни. Люди хотят знать истину и применить ее к своей жизни - в их отношениях, их мыслях, их привычках, их убеждениях, их проблемах и т. д.

Проповедовать толкование без применения означает оставить задачу проповеди незавершенной. Заниматься объяснением, не задумываясь о его применении, означает делать только половину работы. Изучая текст, чтобы понять его значение, вы также должны учитывать его значение для практической стороны жизни. Вы не можете изучать Писания, не связывая его с современной жизнью. Вот где истина применима сегодня. Вот для чего Священное Писание - чтобы быть ему послушным.

Если мы не перейдем из библейского мира в современный, мы оставим истину и своих слушателей в ее древнем контексте и не обеспечим их никакой полезной информацией, кроме интеллектуальной.

Библейская проповедь должна перейти от «что» к «ну и что» и к «а теперь что?». Когда мы объясняем истину, мы имеем дело с «что» истины (т.е. что означает истина?). Когда мы применяем истину, мы обращаемся к «ну и что» истины (т.е. какая разница?). Когда мы реализуем истину, мы предлагаем «а что теперь», требуемое истиной (то есть то, что мы должны сделать сейчас и как это должно изменить нас).

Некоторые утверждают, что это делает Святой Дух, а не мы. Конечно, без применения Слова Святым Духом к сердцу, уму, совести и воле наша проповедь не будет иметь никакого эффекта. В конечном счете, только применение Слова Духом меняет жизнь. Но то же самое можно сказать и о проповедовании Евангелия - только Святой Дух может сделать его эффективным, поэтому некоторые могут спросить, зачем проповедовать его?

Мы проповедуем это, потому что проповедь является назначенным Богом средством передачи нам Своего Слова (Рим. 10: 14-15), как в его значении, так и в его применении. Святой Дух использует людей для предоставления как толкования, так и применения текста. Проповедник обязан показать людям, как Слово применимо к их жизни в конкретных терминах.

Применение Является Обязательным Компонентом Библейской Проповеди, Потому Что ...

1) Оно связывает воедино правдивость текста с жизненной ситуацией слушателей. Наша работа состоит в том, чтобы понять контекст и цель, с которой обращается первоначальный автор, и определить, как это послание относится к нашему собранию сегодня. Таким образом, вы связываете то, что только что объяснили из текста, с тем, как это влияет на жизнь ваших людей.

2) Оно устраняет разрыв между наставлениями Бога Его народу в прошлом и Его наставлениями для нас сегодня.

3) Оно связывает мудрый совет Писания с реальностью жизни каждого человека - его потребность в радости; для близости с Богом; для исцеленных отношений; для послушание Слову; для надежды во Христе и т. д.

4) Оно преодолевает возражение аудитории «ну и что?», То есть «Какое отношение это имеет ко мне?» или «Что я должен делать или как отреагировать на Писание?»

5) Оно переходит от библейской истины «что» к христианской практике “как”.

6) Оно ясно показывает, как библейская истина, которая была объяснена, на самом деле влияет на то, как христианин должен жить... (в магазине, дома, в школе, по соседству и т. д.) Поэтому многие из наших людей приходят в церковь в воскресенье, но живут как неверующие в остальное время своей жизни. Вот почему применение так важно.

7) Превращает принцип, который там есть, в практику, которой необходимо следовать - доктрине, которой нужно верить; отношению, которое нужно принять; отношениям, которые должны быть изменены и т. д.

В Применении Мы Призываем Людей...

а) Мы призываем людей «визуализировать» / «конкретизировать» истину, которую они услышали. Принятие - это не просто умственное согласие, но и изменение опыта,преобразование жизни. Что хорошего, если они понимают истину, но ничего не делают с ней? Наша задача - помочь им увидеть (визуализировать) истину (как она выглядит в реальной жизни), перейдя от истины как абстрактной философии к конкретной, осязаемой, живой реальности.

Помогая им «конкретизировать» истину, поможет им избежать личностных впечатлений по поводу того, что «Бог говорит мне», т. е. даже не пытаться понять, что имеет ввиду автор текста. Именно этот сдвиг очень труден для многих проповедников - как продемонстрировать библейскую истину осязаемым, основанным на опыте образом; как связать истину с повседневной жизнью людей.

Мы должны показать людям, как выглядит истина, чтобы они могли увидеть ее и соотнести ее со своей жизнью. Мы хотим, чтобы они сказали: «Да, это именно так в моей жизни. Я нуждаюсь в этом. Я это переживаю ». Мы хотим, чтобы они воплотили истину, то есть жили ею. В конце концов, вся христианская жизнь является воплощением, не так ли? Речь идет о том, чтобы быть похожим на Христа и, таким образом, проявлять истину Христа в нашей жизни.

Большой вопрос: «Как мы можем это сделать?» Мы можем сделать это, предоставляя «конкретные» ситуации и примеры, которые охватывают весь спектр нашей аудитории (возраст, статус, работа, отношения, экономика и т. д.). и это помогает им увидеть то, о чем мы говорим.

б) Мы призываем людей «персонализировать» услышанную ими истину. Мы хотим, чтобы люди сказали: «Да. Я нуждаюсь в этом. Я хочу быть таким или делать то или подчиняться этому, или верить этому» и т. д.

в) Мы призываем людей «реализовать» истину, которую они услышали. Мы хотим, чтобы они приняли ее, практиковали, сделали ее реальностью в жизни. Мы призываем людей к подчинению и послушанию Слову, потому что истине нужно повиноваться. Мы призываем к послушному реагированию и практическим действиям, чтобы жизнь людей соответствовала истине. Мы помогаем им «актуализировать» истину, приглашая их практическими способами изменить свою жизнь так, как это повлияло на их послание.

A. Применение Должно Соотноситься С Библейским Текстом

Объяснительная проповедь - это не постоянный комментарий для передачи информации. Ее цель - применить к жизни верующего те принципы, которые объясняются в тексте. Вы не можете применять принципы без объяснения содержания истины, из которой они взяты. Вы не можете объяснить «как» без «что». Вы не можете настаивать на обязанности, не зная учения, на котором она зиждется. Следовательно, применение должно быть «основано» на библейском тексте, из которого вы проповедуете. Это, наверное, один из величайших недостатков в проповеди сегодня. Проповедники начинают понимать, что не имеют удовлетворительного, точного или четкого объяснения значения текста. Если аудитория не понимает значения текста (что является авторитетом для того, что мы проповедуем), как мы можем ожидать, что они послушаются его?

Кроме того, ваше применение должно быть не только «основана» на библейском тексте, оно также должно быть «ограничено» библейским текстом. Другими словами, ваше применение ограничивается предметом и объемом рассматриваемого текста. Применение должно основываться на истинности текста и затем применяться соответствующим образом. Вы не можете делать любое применение из любого текста. Как ваше толкование ограничено контекстом и темой библейского текста, так и ваше применение. Другими словами, применение должно вытекать из толкования текста.

Тем не менее, я считаю, что мы вправе достаточно «растягивать» применение в рамках общих намерений первоначального автора и темы текста. Это дает нам свободу применять текст ко многим различным ситуациям и проблемам, с которыми сталкиваются наши прихожане, оставаясь при этом верными тексту.

Одним из способов, которыми мы можем законно «растянуть» применение - это использование дедуктивной логики или логического вывода. Таким образом, применение включает в себя «смысл», который, по определению, дает вам больше возможностей для применения. Мы созданы с умом рассуждать. Следовательно…

1) Будьте логичны в применении. Покажите, как ваш текст приводит вас к логическому применению.

2) Будьте конкретны в применении. Приведите примеры.

В каждой проповеди слушатель хочет знать три вещи:

1) О чем вы проповедуете? (главная тема текста).

2) Какой у вас аргумент? (объединяющие мысли текста - т.е. его основные пункты и подпункты).

3) Что ты хочешь чтобы я сделал? (мотивирующая направленность текста - его применение и цель в моей жизни).

Помните, что вы не имеете права приглашать людей отвечать на истину, которую вы им не объяснили, и которую они не понимают и, следовательно, не могут визуализировать.

Б. Применение Должно Быть Намеренным

Как разъяснительные проповедники, мы должны быть очень преднамеренными как в изложении, так и в применении текста.

1. Мы Должны Быть «Личностными» В Нашем Применении

Важно быть обличающими, не вызывая разногласий или оскорблений. Применение требует личного приема и подчинения истине. Поэтому слушатели должны:

а) Получить послание.

б) усвоить послание - то есть подумать о том, как это влияет на их собственную жизнь.

в) Определить, что нужно изменить, спросив, что им нужно сделать в связи с этим.

г) Решите измениться и составьте план для этого. Возможно, это потребует ответственности перед кем-то, или смены рутины или привычек и т. д.

Чтобы сделать ваше применение личностным, важно, чтобы вы попытались обратиться к широкому спектру вашей аудитории в конкретных и личных терминах, где и как они живут в жизни. Подумайте, как вы можете применить свою проповедь к их личной жизни, к семейной жизни, к трудовой жизни, к церковной жизни, к общественной жизни. Кроме того, попытайтесь применить проповедь к их уму и сердцу - например, в их отношениях, в убеждениях, в отношениях (с Богом и с другими), в поведении, в желаниях, в мотивах, в ценностях, в приоритетах и в характере.

2. Мы Должны Быть «Практичными» В Нашем Применении

Здесь мы говорим о том, «как» люди должны реагировать? Недостаточно знать только «что» в послании. Мы также должны рассказать им «как». Тенденция состоит в том, чтобы остаться с «что». Хотя «что» очень важно, оно не составляет всей проповеди.

а) Должен быть призыв к библейскому покаянию как верующих, так и неверующих.

б) Должен быть призыв к библейскому обновлению. Каждое проповедническое событие должно быть временем обновления и возрождения верующего и возрождения неверующего.

в) Должен быть призыв к библейской реальности. Поскольку мы живем в день культурного христианства, а не библейского, в нашем обществе существует тенденция к искусственному христианству. Проповедники должны призывать своих людей к библейской реальности.

3. Мы Должны Быть «Целеустремленными» В Нашем Применении

У нашей проповеди должна быть цель. Все тексты ведут ко Христу (Кол. 1: 27-29). Это конечная и основная цель проповеди, поэтому, когда люди уходят, они больше похожи на Христа. Это основная причина проповеди.

В. Применение Должно Побудить Людей К Действию

Каждая проповедь нуждается в четырехгранном движении, чтобы активировать личное послушание слушателей:

1. «Ум» Должен Быть Воспитан Нашей Проповедью (Различением)

Каждая проповедь должна обучать - растягивать ум, чтобы размышлять и понимать вещи, которые человек не видел или не понимал раньше. Твердая пища (то есть «мясо») принадлежит тем, кто достиг совершеннолетия (Евр. 5:14). Вы должны выйти за рамки букваря в христианстве. Поверхностная проповедь рождает поверхностных христиан.

2. «Сердце» Должно Быть Затронуто Нашей Проповедью (Желанием)

Вы должны целиться в сердце, чтобы «подтолкнуть» кого-то к действию. Сердце - главный орган физической жизни. «Сердце» - это слово, которое описывает скрытые источники человеческой жизни и сферу божественного влияния.

Сердце должно быть достигнуто, чтобы произвести «движение» (действие) в слушателе. Один ум не сделает этого. Сердце - это великий мотиватор.

Проповедь в сердце позволяет слушателям соотнести себя с персонажами библии и проблемами в отрывке Писания и применить принципы этого отрывка. Это предполагает, очевидно, переход от общего к частному.

«Сердце» в Писании описывает место, где принимаются решения, и где принимаются решения. Это место, где встречаются ум и воля. Недостаточно только напрячь ум. Вы также должны прикоснуться к сердцу.

Упор здесь делается на желании, а не только на проницательности. Проповедуй, чтобы побудить сердце отвечать. Сердце должно быть затронуто. Для этого в проповеди должна быть страсть и эмоции.

3. «Воля» Должна Быть Направлена Нашей Проповедью (Решением)

Недостаточно только обучить ум и прикоснуться к сердцу. Вам также необходимо направлять, фокусировать и формировать волю, чтобы сдать все права власти Слова, умереть для себя и жить для Христа, отрешиться от старой природы и облечься в новую (Гал. 2:20; Еф. 4: 22-24).

Если затронуты только разум и сердце, этого недостаточно. Должна быть воля добровольно подчиненная истине Слова и, таким образом, живущая в соответствии с ним.

4. «Совесть» Должна Быть Проколота Нашей Проповедью (Обнаружением)

Совесть - мощный инструмент применения. Она - сильный мотиватор подчиняться. Он определяет, где люди потерпели неудачу в послушании истине. Она показывает, где может быть грех в жизни человека, о котором нужно судить.

Таким образом, библейская проповедь активирует совесть, чтобы люди отвечали послушанием.

Выводы.

Применение должно быть личностным, практичным и целенаправленным, чтобы оно затрагивало всю личность - разум, сердце, волю и совесть. В то время как сердце является великим мотиватором к действию, если вы сможете объединить ум с желанием сердца, это еще более мощная сила для активации совести, которая, в свою очередь, побудит человека подчинить свою волю и подчиниться истине.

Г. Применение Лучше Всего Раскрыть Во Всей Проповеди

Применяя истину в проповеди, ваши слушатели не забудут принцип, который управляет применением. Она тесно связывает принцип и практику. Вы тесно связываете применение с текстом, который вы только что объяснили. Это дает вашему применению гораздо больший авторитет, поскольку говорит текст, а не вы.

Некоторые проповедники делают свое применение в конце проповеди. Это допустимо, но имеет несколько недостатков:

1) Если делать так регулярно, ваша аудитория быстро это выяснит, и тогда вы потеряете влияние, потому что они готовы отстроить вас («О, вот он снова говорит это»). Я бы предложил, чтобы применение в конце служило только для усиления и повторного подтверждения послания, которое вы уже пытались донести на протяжении всей проповеди.

2) Они отделяют объяснение истины от применения истины так, что аудитория не будет интуитивно соединять одно с другим.

Я рекомендую вам применять истину постоянно, начиная с самого вступления вплоть до заключения проповеди.

1. Во «вступлении» вы даете применение, когда вы…

а) устанавливаете необходимость слушать; необходимость в этом послании.

б) делаете ссылку на библейский текст.

в) формулируете свою «проповедь в одном предложении» (тезисно).

2. В основной части (“теле”) проповеди вы применяете каждый принцип истины…

а) в формулировке каждого из ваших основных пунктов и подпунктов. Они должны быть сформулированы в применение - то есть таким образом, чтобы ваша аудитория была включена, видела себя в принципе истины.

б) во время или в конце вашего объяснения каждого основного момента.

в) в иллюстрациях и примерах.

3. В заключении вы применяете истину…

a) когда вы подводите итог проповеди.

б) когда вы выявляете и делаете проповедь личной

Д. Почему Применение Сложно?

1. Потому Что Это - Сложно! Это - Тяжелая Работа, Потому Что:

a) Оно требует точности к Писанию.

b) Оно должно быть актуально для людей и их культуры.

c) Оно требует личного самоанализа и честности.

2. Потому Что Проповедники Думают, Что Применение Интуитивно Очевидно

Легко представить, что связь между вашим объяснением текста и его практическим применением к жизни ваших слушателей интуитивно очевидна, что не нужно указывать, что ваши слушатели могут сами это понять. Легко предположить, что наши слушатели «понимают», как правда влияет на их жизнь.

Это, конечно, зачастую, неверно. Применение не выскакивает автоматически на вас больше, чем на вас выскакивают принципы истины. Кто-то должен указать на это.

3. Потому Что Проповедники Неправильно Истолковывают Цель Проповеди.

Цель проповеди состоит в том, чтобы изменить жизнь людей, чтобы они стали более похожими на Христа, и мы делаем это, объясняя истину, а затем указывая, как это должно изменить нас. Это - применение.

Применение - это средство, с помощью которого мы связываем библейскую истину с повседневной жизнью людей. Оно означает, что нужно давать примеры того, как это выглядит в жизни, призывать общество к переменам, называть ошибки, обличать неправильные взгляды и отношения и т. д.

Помните, все богословие в высшей степени практично. Его цель - повлиять на поведение, желания, приоритеты, ценности, цели, отношения и т. д.

Хорошие проповеди не только учат истине, но и показывают, как она связана со «мной». Тщательно продуманная и полная проповедь приводит к применению. Следует повиноваться истине (Рим. 6:17). Вот что изменит жизнь ваших людей - не умная формулировка нескольких основных моментов, а жизненное применение истины, которая заставляет людей меняться.

4. Потому Что Проповедники Должны Продумать Применение Еще До Того, Как Сделают Проповедь.

Слишком много проповедников думают, что они могут на лету подавать заявки. Вы не можете. Они должны быть хорошо продуманы заранее, потому что у вас разное собрание с различными жизненными ситуациями и нуждами, и все они должны быть отвечены. У вас есть…

а) Молодые люди, среднего возраста, пожилые люди

б) Профессионалы, рабочие, офисные работники, фабричные рабочие и т. д.

в) Женатые люди, одинокие, разведенные и разлученные

г) Яппи, пенсионеры

д) Семьи, пары, одинокие.

е) Государственная школа, старшая школа и студенты колледжа

ж) Богатые, бедные и люди среднего класса.

Чтобы эффективно применить это слово к такому разнообразию, необходимо тщательно обдумать его перед проповедью.

Е. Открывая Применение

Вопрос, с которым мы сталкиваемся, по мере того, как вы раскрываете каждый принцип в тексте, и как вы переходите к применению? Как вы находите настоящее применение, оставаясь верными теме текста и намерению исходного автора?

В качестве общего принципа я хотел бы предложить, чтобы применение библейского принципа относилось к той же сфере применения, что и текст. Это только подчеркивает, насколько важно точно определить предмет текста. Вы должны установить прямую связь между объяснением принципов, которые вы проповедуете, и применением, которое вы делаете.

Во-первых, начните задавать себе следующие вопросы:

а) О чем писал автор?

б) Почему автор написал этим людям?

в) Какие обстоятельства в жизни людей требуют исправления, ободрения, утешения, уверенности, упрека, руководства и т. д.?

г) Как автор применил принципы к жизни своих читателей?

д) Какой ответ автор ожидал и хотел от них?

Ответы на эти вопросы устанавливают параметры для вашего применения.

Во-вторых, откройте для себя современное применение, спросив себя:

а) Какие универсальные, неизменные истины в тексте имеют непосредственное отношение к сегодняшней жизни?

б) Какие современные ситуации, проблемы, вопросы и т. д. по своей природе похожи на исходную аудиторию? Каким образом наша современная аудитория испытывает те же ситуации, что и первоначальная аудитория?

В-третьих, перейдите от общих последствий к конкретным и личным применениям. Общие последствия могут говорить о том, как истина текста говорит с домом, работой, церковью и т. д. для всех. Это хорошо, но я бы посоветовал вам попытаться продвинуться еще дальше, чем к конкретным применениям, подходящим для вашей культуры и обстоятельств. Это сложная часть. Итак, как ты это делаешь?

Опять же, вы исследуете личное применение, задавая вопросы:

а) Что эта истина значит для моих людей в их повседневной жизни?

б) Какие проблемы, потребности, образ жизни, убеждения и обстоятельства в церкви необходимо решать - будь то личные, экономические, общественные, общественные, реляционные, духовные, этические и т. д.

в) Где в нашей жизни может быть применена эта истина?

В-четвертых, обдумайте, какой ответ вы ожидаете от своей аудитории.

Как вы хотите, чтобы они изменили свои ценности, приоритеты, отношения, убеждения, отношения, практику, мотивы, желания, характер и т. д.?

Наконец, бросьте вызов своим людям, чтобы они спросили себя:

а) Что Бог хочет, чтобы я сделал с этой истиной?

б) Как я могу добиться изменений? Что мне нужно сделать?

в) Как мне начать?

Ж. Проповедуя О Вашем Применении

1. Вы Должны Знать Своих Людей И Свою Церковь

Задавая вышеуказанные вопросы, вы спрашиваете их не только о своей собственной жизни, но особенно о жизни людей в вашем собрании.

Поэтому, задавая вопросы (ища соответствующее применение), вы должны помнить о своих людях, представляя их сидящими на стульях или просматривая церковное руководство, пока вы вспоминаете их жизненную ситуацию, потребности, проблемы, вызовы и т. д.

2. Из Этого Упражнения Вы Составите Список Подходящих Применений.

Теперь вы применяете отрывок к реальным нуждам, которые соответствуют потребностям, указанным в отрывке. Эти применения не будут идентифицировать кого-либо в вашей общине и не будут раскрывать их конфиденциальность. Они по-прежнему будут несколько общими по своей природе, но вы затягиваете узел сильнее и разъясняете, как применяются принципы, приводя примеры того, как они могут применяться к вашим людям в конкретных ситуациях.

Итак, вы можете сказать: «Если вы живете святой жизнью, вы продемонстрируете это на своем рабочем месте с помощью… (например, не переходите границу с противоположным полом») и т. д. и т. д. Затем вы можете предложить способы применения этих применений на практике.

Из примеров применения, которые вы проповедуете, ваши люди смогут перенестись в свою конкретную жизненную ситуацию.

3. Постарайтесь Привести Достаточно Примеров, Чтобы Охватить Все Сферы Вашей Церкви.

Вы указываете это, используя различные возрастные группы, семейное положение, экономическое положение и т. д. В их жизненной ситуации. Есть четыре ситуации, которые относятся ко всем

а) школа

б) работа

в) дом

г) община

4. Не Забывайте Дать Применение Вашим Пунктам, Если Это Возможно

Есть несколько преимуществ

а) Применение будет непрерывным процессом на протяжении всей вашей проповеди, а не только в отдельных ее разделах.

б) Принципы, которые вы устанавливаете в своих пунктах, будут персонализированы, а не останутся абстрактными истинами.

в) Ваши пункты будут иметь большее влияние.

Выводы О Применении.

Богословие, правильно проповедуемое, вполне практично. Библия написана не только для того, чтобы наполнить наши головы знаниями, но и для того, чтобы изменить то, как мы живем, думаем и действуем. В частности, каждая проповедь должна помочь нам стать более похожими на Христа, применяя на практике универсальные, вечные истины Писания. По этой причине мы должны четко и точно объяснить текст и применять его уместно и лично.

Часть II: План Проповеди

Чтобы прослушать аудиоверсию этих проповедей на английском языке, нажмите на следующие ссылки: Link 1 - Ин. 21:15-17; Link 2 - Ин. 21:18-19; Link 3 - Ин. 21:19-25

Название: «Призван к служению»

Тема: Уроки христианского служения

1. Залог служения Господу - любить Его (15-17)

а) Несмотря на нашу слабую верность, Иисус по-прежнему ценит нашу любовь

б) Несмотря на нашу слабую верность, Иисус все еще хочет нашего служения

2. Цель служения Господу - прославить Его (18-19а)

а) мы должны прославлять Его, когда мы молоды (18а)

б) мы должны прославлять Его, когда мы состаримся (18б-19а)

3. Образец служения Господу - следовать за Ним (19б-23)

а) Мы следуем за Ним, отвечая на Его призыв (19б)

б) Мы следуем за Ним, не спуская с Него глаз (20)

в) Мы следуем за Ним, занимаясь своим делом (21-23)

Related Topics: Pastors

Q. Why Is Honey Forbidden As An Offering In The Law?

Answer

Dear ******,

Thanks for your note. Several passages come to mind:

Secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those that are revealed belong to us and our descendants forever, so that we might obey all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29 NET)

It does not appear that the reason for prohibiting honey is important enough to explain, so perhaps we should not agonize about something we are not told. We should expect that some things in the Bible will not be explained to our satisfaction. But then we have all eternity to ask Jesus about them.

There are, however, some passages which could possibly give us hints which might shed some light on the matter:

16 Have you afound honey? Eat only 1what you need, That you not have it in excess and vomit it. (Prov. 25:16 NAU)

27 It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to asearch out 1one’s own glory. (Prov. 25:27 NAU)

I am a fellow who likes to help my wife cook, often by sampling the dough, or cleaning out the mixing bowl. I don’t sample things that are not tasty. It looks to me as though honey is a very tasty, and thus tempting, item to eat. Might this, if used frequently, be tempting.

Then I read that some of the priests misused/abused things related to Israel’s sacrificial worship:

The sons of Eli were wicked men. They did not recognize the LORD’s authority. 13 Now the priests would always treat the people in the following way: Whenever anyone was making a sacrifice, while the meat was boiling, the priest’s attendant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand. 14 He would jab it into the basin, kettle, caldron, or pot, and everything that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they used to do to all the Israelites when they came there to Shiloh. 15 Even before they burned the fat, the priest’s attendant would come and say to the person who was making the sacrifice, “Hand over some meat for the priest to roast! He won’t take boiled meat from you, but only raw.” 16 If the individual said to him, “First let the fat be burned away, and then take for yourself whatever you wish,” he would say, “No! Hand it over right now! If you don’t, I will take it forcibly!” 17 The sin of these young men was very great in the LORD’s sight, for they treated the LORD’s offering with contempt. (1 Sam. 2:12-17 NET)

Now Eli was very old when he heard about everything that his sons used to do to all the people of Israel and how they used to have sex with the women who were stationed at the entrance to the tent of meeting. (1 Sam. 2:22 NET)

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them– to the shepherds: ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep! (Ezek. 34:2-3 NET)

This is from an external source, which I reluctantly use, but it may shed a little light on the question:

Mead or honey wine is the oldest alcoholic drinks known to man. It is made from honey and water via fermentation with yeast. It may be still, carbonated, or sparkling; it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Unlike beers and cider, meads (being wines) are drunk in small quantities.1

Having said all of this, when it comes to the somewhat related matter of foods that are declared unclean, there are those who seek to provide a reason why God said the food was unclean. I think it is unclean just because God said so. No wonder God could declare the unclean foods which separated Jews and Gentiles to be clean in the New Testament (Mark 7:19; Acts 10-11; see also Galatians 2:11-14). Unclean foods are unclean, not because they are bad for our health, but because God said they were not to be eaten. It is no test of obedience for us to avoid eating what is repulsive to us. It is a test of obedience if God tells us not to eat ice cream (for example).

So, there may be a good reason why honey is not to be part of the grain offering, but God did not choose to make this a matter He explains to our satisfaction, so we must simply accept it as God’s Word.

Blessings,

Bob Deffinbaugh


1 https://www.google.com/search?q=does+fermented+honey+contain+alcohol&oq=Does+honey+ferment&aqs=chrome.3.0l6.15267j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Related Topics: Law

Living Together in Community

This is an 11 part series in Ephesians 4:1-6:20 on “Living Together in Community.” The epistle to the Ephesians is about unity in the church. In the first half of the epistle, the apostle Paul addresses the theological basis for Christian unity - a unity that has been established in Christ through our common roots, common transformation, and common relationship (ch. 1-3).

In the second half of this epistle,  the apostle Paul moves from the doctrinal instruction on church unity to the practical instruction on church unity - a unity that revolves around our personal, family, social, and church lives (ch. 4-6).

So, from the first half of the epistle, we learn what the unity of the church is (or should be), and from the second half of the epistle we learn how we should put that unity into practice.

In 4:1-6, we are exhorted to demonstrate certain Christian virtues - virtues that “keep the unity of the Spirit” (3), virtues that are listed in verse 4-6 and developed throughout the rest of the epistle. We are called to a “Live Together in Unity” through our common calling, our common character, and our common confession.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church)

1. Walking Together In Unity (Eph. 4:1-6)

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Introduction

This is part 1 of a series in Ephesians 4:1-6:20 on “Living Together in Community.” The epistle to the Ephesians is about unity in the church. In the first half of the epistle, the apostle Paul addresses the theological basis for Christian unity - a unity that has been established in Christ through our common roots, common transformation, and common relationship (ch. 1-3).

In the second half of this epistle,  the apostle Paul moves from the doctrinal instruction on church unity to the practical instruction on church unity - a unity that revolves around our personal, family, social, and church lives (ch. 4-6).

So, from the first half of the epistle, we learn what the unity of the church is (or should be), and from the second half of the epistle we learn how we should put that unity into practice.

In 4:1-6, we are exhorted to demonstrate certain Christian virtues - virtues that “keep the unity of the Spirit” (3), virtues that are listed in verse 4-6 and developed throughout the rest of the epistle. We are called to a “Live Together in Unity” through our common calling, our common character, and our common confession.

I. Walking In Unity Is Demanded By… Our Common Calling (Eph. 4:1)

1. We Have Been Summoned To A “Calling” That Is Heavenly

…the calling to which you have been called (1b)

Together with all Christian believers, we have been called to a common position in Christ, in which we enjoy our common blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14), our common transformation in Christ (2:1-10), and our common relationship in Christ (2:11-22).

Just as the disciples had been called (Mk. 1:20) and the apostle Paul had been called (1 Cor. 1:1), so all believers have been called by God. We’ve been called to everything that God has created us to be - his people, his children, his inheritance.

We’ve been called to a life in Christ - a holy and blameless life (1:4), a life of redemption (1:7), a life of future inheritance (1:14), a life of hope (2:12-13), a life in God’s family (2:19-22). We’ve been called to a life of unity with all other believers, a new unity, which we manifest in our practice.

We have been summoned to a calling that is heavenly, and…

2. We Have Been Urged To A “Walk” That Is Worthy

Therefore, (Paul says) I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling (1a)

Paul urges us to put into practice what we know in theory. We know in theory our position in Christ (ch. 1-3). Now our practice is to reflect that position (ch. 4-6). We are to live in such a way as to support, demonstrate, and enhance the glorious position that is ours in Christ and to which we have been called.

Paul himself was an example of this kind of life, a life that had rendered him figuratively and literally a prisoner of the Lord. That is what it means to walk worthy of the calling.

A worthy walk is a walk that is appropriate to our calling - a walk that conforms to our new position in Christ and not our old position in the world (2:2); a walk that reflects our blessings in Christ, our transformation in Christ, and our relationship in Christ; a walk that is consistent with the unity of the body of Christ. A person’s conduct must be consistent with their position in life.

The story is told that Alexander the Great once met a disreputable character whose name was also Alexander. Alexander the Great said to him: “Either change your way of life or change your name.” That’s what we are called to as Christians - to change our way of life to one that is consistent with our name and position; to walk worthy of our calling; to conduct ourselves in such a way that it adds weight to the gospel and the cause of Christ. We are his representatives on earth and our lives must show it.

So, first, walking in unity is demanded by our common calling. Notice also…

II. Walking In Unity Is Displayed In… Our Common Character (Eph. 4:2-3)

When we come to faith in Christ, our character is reshaped; our thinking changes (Rom 12:2); our opinions, values, and attitudes are radically changed to comport with the nature and character of Christ. Character is both internal and external:

1. The Character Of Christian Unity Is… Produced Internally (2)

John Stott calls “internal character” the “foundation stones of Christian unity.” 1

The 1st Foundation Stone Of Christian Unity Is… “Humility” (2a)

Humility is that lowliness of mind that enables us to respect others as better than ourselves. It is that lowering of self just as Christ “humbled himself” (Phil. 2:5-11). We are to duplicate Paul’s own example among the Ephesians of one who “served the Lord with all humility” (Acts 20:19).

The 2nd Foundation Stone Of Christian Unity Is… “Gentleness” (2b)

Gentleness (or, meekness) goes hand in glove with humility. Gentleness is consideration towards others; not insisting on our own rights (meekness); not asserting ourselves at the expense of others. This is not so much outward behaviour (or natural disposition) but an inward grace of the soul. 2

The 3rd Foundation Stone Of Christian Unity Is… “Patience” (2c)

To be “patient” is to be willing to wait, to be “longsuffering”, just as God waits in patience, holding back his judgement on this world, waiting for people to turn to him.

Our patience is to be expressed by bearing with one another in love (2d), by tolerating one another’s foibles out of love for one another. Love is the underlying virtue upon which both “patience” and “forbearance” are based, as mothers of small children well know. Patience is something we must be zealous to demonstrate to one another. It is fundamental to maintaining unity in our interpersonal relationships.

The character of Christian unity, then, is produced internally and…

2. The Character Of Christian Unity Is… Practiced Externally (3)

… endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (3a)

We are not instructed to “create” this unity. If that were the case, we would fly apart at the seams. Rather, we are to keep the unity that already has been created. We are to put into practice the unity of the Spirit – that unity created by the Holy Spirit that indwells every Christian, binding us inseparably to each other.

This is a unity that exists in principle whether we live like it or not. If the character of Christian unity has been produced internally in us, then we will express it practically by living like those who are bound together by cords that cannot be broken; then we will take great pains to guard carefully the unity that is ours.

Since we did not create this unity we can claim no merit in forming it. The unity of the Church exists entirely apart from any effort on our part but we can do a lot to “maintain / keep the unity of the Spirit” - i.e. we can put into practice the unity that exists in principle.

What Paul is urging us to do is to guard our spiritual unity; to do everything we can to forge a strong bond between ourselves; to manifest the unity that the Holy Spirit has formed among us by practicing these Christian virtues.

If we truly keep the unity of the Spirit we will be at peace (3b). God has established peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has reconciled us to himself and to each other through the cross (2:14-17). Peace is the overriding character of the unity between Christians. It is the glue that binds us together - the bond of peace.

The foundation stones of Christian character are essential for unity but they aren’t always easy for us to practice; they don’t come naturally to us. When was the last time you heard about or practised humility? You weren’t taught it in school. You wouldn’t read about it in the corporate ethics of the place where you work. It isn’t considered a positive character trait by the world.

What about gentleness? What you learn in the world is to push your way to the top, tread on others to make it up the corporate ladder, look out for #1.

And who has sufficient patience these days? Did you know that they figure that in your lifetime you’ll spend six months waiting at traffic lights? No wonder people run red lights!

But humility, gentleness, and patience are key for unity in the church. For the church to work right, we need internal character and attitude that isn’t natural to us, that only comes from God.

Walking in unity, then, is demanded by our common calling, displayed in our common character, and…

III. Walking In Unity Is Driven By… Our Common Confession (4:4-6)

There can be no unity in practice without unity in belief. Our confession of faith is formulated around the seven “ones” of unity…

#1 And #2. Unity Of Formation:  “One Body” And “One Spirit” (4a)

The one body is formed and sustained by the one Spirit who indwells all believers, thus rendering us collectively one body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13). Therefore, Paul can say definitively there is one body and one Spirit regardless of whether or not our practice demonstrates the unity of the Spirit or the truth of the one body.

In this sense, the body of Christ is like a necklace. A necklace is composed of many individual beads joined together by a single common cord. Separately, they exist as beads, but when they are joined together by a common cord they exist as a single necklace. Just so, individual Christians are bound together by the indwelling of the Spirit to form a single body, the church.

The Holy Spirit constitutes the church and is the basis of its oneness. There are not numerous bodies, even though it may seem that way when you look around. There isn’t one for Jews and one for Gentiles, one for blacks and one for whites, one for rich and one for poor. There is one body, the church, which is comprised of all believers.

Just as there is unity of formation in one body through one Spirit, so there is…

#3. Unity Of Destiny:  “One Hope Of Your Calling” (4b)

The amplified version reads: There is also one hope that belongs to the calling you received (4b). We have been called, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and given one hope.

The Spirit constitutes “the body” and its unity and He fills its members with a common hope – namely, the hope of being with and like Christ. And we live in the truth and consciousness of this glorious hope. It is the “hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23); the “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27); the “hope of salvation” (1 Th. 5:8); the “hope of eternal life” (Tit. 1:2); the “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2;13); a “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3).

The fourth “one” of unity is…

#4. Unity Of Headship:  “One Lord” (5a)

The body enjoys a unity of headship because there is one Lord, just as it enjoys unity of formation because there is one Spirit. The church’s primary confession is that Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord, the head of the body (see 1 Cor. 8:6; 12:3; Phil. 2:11).

#5. Unity Of Belief:  “One Faith”

The body of Christ confesses only one faith (5b), a confession that is both subjective and objective. The fundamental subjective expression of “one faith” is the confession with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord and the belief in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead. The objective expression of “one faith” is the belief in the fundamental doctrines of the New Testament, those doctrines which are necessary for salvation, about which all true believers are united.

Just as all believers are united in their confession of “one Lord” so they are united in their confession of one faith - one faith in the one Lord who alone saves us through his work of atonement. (Cf. Gal. 1:23; Phil. 1:27; 1 Tim. 3:9; 4:1, 6; Tit. 1:4; Jude 3).

Unity of formation (one body and one Spirit). Unity of destiny. Unity of headship. Unity of belief. And…

#6. Unity Of Ordinance:  “One Baptism”

Christians differ as to the form of baptism but there is only one baptism in the sense that true baptism expresses one truth – namely, faith in, and union with, Christ.

By submitting to this ordinance every believer expresses their unity - unity of one faith and one Lord (1 Cor. 12:13). “For the Lord Jesus Christ is the one object of the faith, hope and baptism of all Christian people. It is Jesus Christ in whom we have believed, Jesus Christ into whom we have been baptized, and Jesus Christ for whose coming we wait with expectant hope.” 3

Lastly there is…

#7. Unity Of Godhead:  “One God And Father” (6)

This is the apex of unity. This is the ultimate expression of all that the church ought to reflect here on earth – that there is one God and Father of all.

The unity of the church is most fully expressed in the unity of God himself. It is through our relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that Christians participate in this unity.

The various religions and philosophies of the world claim different gods. Some religions have several gods. In fact, some religions now claim that we ourselves are gods or that the ultimate goal is to become God. The truth is that there is only one God and it is that one true God whom the true church confesses and worships.

The one God is above all because He is transcendent over the church and all creation; he is sovereign over all. He is through all because He is omnipresent, pervading all things. And the one God is in you all because He is immanent, near. He does not live within all people, but within you all (believers). And we manifest his presence in us by our relationships, our compassion, our attitudes etc. Thus, God is the Father “above,” “through,” and “in” all who are his people.

Conclusions

We have been called to “Walk in Unity” through our common calling, common character, and common confession. There are no stars or soloists or lone rangers in the church. There are no stars because we are called to walk together in unity, on the same level with one another, in step with one another; united in Christ-like character (humility, gentleness, patience); united in theological confession.

Francis Schaeffer once said, “We cannot expect the world to believe that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians” – i.e. the external expression of the indwelling Christ. When non-Christians look at the church they should see people who walk together, united in Christ.

What do non-Christians think about the church? Do they think of slick television evangelists like they see on TV? Do they think of fundraising drives to line the pockets of the leaders? Do they think that we’re some sort of cult – private, even weird? Or, do they see consistency in our behaviour and caring in our attitude? Do they see a community of happy united people “in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10); “esteeming one another better than ourselves” (Phil. 2:5); confident in who we are and what we believe; wanting to share what we have with others? Do they see in us the character of Christ - humility, gentleness, patience?

To walk worthy of our calling means (1) to live by what is demanded of our position in Christ; (2) to display our new character in Christ; and (3) to be driven by the one true confession of faith. May this be true in our churches. Not that we merely agree on a common confession of faith but that we mirror that confession in our practice by living as those who are chosen in Christ, redeemed, and are looking forward to entering into our heavenly inheritance.


1 John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (IVP, 1979), 149.

2 W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 727.

3 Stott, 150.

Related Topics: Christian Life

2. Growing Together In Maturity (Eph. 4:7-16)

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Introduction

When your children stop asking you where they came from and stop telling you where they’re going you know they’re growing up! 1 As Christians in the body of Christ, we are growing up. As we grow up, we mature. We grow up because we feed on healthy spiritual food and we mature because we gain deeper knowledge of God and Christ.

As we mature, we change. We’re not all alike; we each have various gifts and talents. Even though we all enjoy the same position in Christ and have all responded to the same calling of God, we aren’t clones. We aren’t produced with a cookie cutter; we aren’t a cult in which all members dress the same, speak the same, and act the same.

The church is not a military organization that finds its unity in a uniform or language, but it is just as well organized, trained, and equipped.

Our maturity in the body of Christ is a process. It is a maturing process that is nourished by the spiritual gifts given to the body in which we are becoming more and more like Christ.

In this article, we continue our study of Ephesians 4 to 6, “Living Together in Community”. Our communal practice as believers in Christ finds its expression in “Walking together in unity” (4:1-6) that we studied in the previous article, and now in this article, “Growing together in maturity” (4:7-16).

How do we grow spiritually? How do we become what God wants us to be in the body of Christ? How do we mature in our Christ-likeness?

The church is the place where we grow in maturity:

1. We grow in our maturity through Christ’s servants (7-11)

2. We grow in maturity for Christ’s service (12)

3. We grow in our maturity in Christ’s likeness (13-16)

Firstly, the church is the place where…

I. We Grow In Our Maturity… Through Christ’s Servants (7-11)

To each of you grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift (7a)

Each of us are given spiritual gifts by Christ to use for the edification of his body. No one person has all the gifts that the body needs. It is a co-operative effort through which the body maintains its unity and growth.

Christ has apportioned these gifts to the members of his body. When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men (8). This quote from Psalm 68:18 pictures the triumphant monarch who returns home with gifts to distribute from the spoils of battle. Paul applies this allusion to Christ’s ascension to heaven. He is our triumphant King who now has gifts to bestow upon us, his people.

Two difficult parenthetical verses follow (9-10), which expand on the implications of Christ’s ascension to heaven. Before he ascended to heaven in power, exaltation, and glory, he had to first descend to earth in humiliation, rejection, and death (9-10a). But both his descent and his ascent had one purpose - the supremacy of Christ over all the powers of heaven and earth. Now He reigns supreme over the strongest power on earth (death) and over the highest echelons of heaven, far above all the heavens (10b).

The result of his descent to the “bowels” of Calvary was his exaltation to the heights of glory from where he fills all things (10c) through his Spirit. In no place is the supremacy of Christ more clearly attested than in his church, to which he, the victorious King, has given gifts.

The gifts that Christ has given to his church are, in fact, people. And he himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (11). Christ has given these people to the church for the specific purpose of assisting the church to its full maturity in him. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are ministers of the church, who, in this context, use their gifts to help others use theirs.

1. The Church Was Established By “The Apostles And Prophets”

He himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets (11a)

The apostles were first in time and importance:

  1. Because they had seen the risen Lord.
  2. Because they had been sent out by Christ to establish and organize the church.
  3. Because their works were accompanied by signs and wonders as evidence that they had the power of Christ operating in and through them. (Cf. 1 Cor. 9:1-2; Acts 1:21-23; Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 12:12).

The prophets founded the church with the apostles. They were important to the founding of the church because they made known the mind of God to the people, either by direct communication from God or indirectly through the interpretation of God’s Word. Their gift was not primarily “foretelling” (prophesying, predicting) the future, although that was part of it (see Acts 11:28; 21:9, 11), but it was primarily “forth-telling” (proclaiming) the Word, by convicting the people in their hearts and consciences (1 Cor. 14:24-25) and by strengthening and encouraging these new Christians (Acts 15:32).

So, firstly we learn from this passage that the church was built by the apostles and prophets. Second…

2. The Church Expands Through The Work Of “Evangelists”

He himself gave some to be… evangelists (11b)

Evangelists are Christians who are specially gifted in explaining the Gospel (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2). They preach to those who have never heard it or who cannot understand it. Now, we may not all have the gift of evangelism, but we do all have the responsibility to witness for Christ. When was the last time you told someone about Christ? Do you know how to explain the Gospel in a few words and in a way that people can understand? We cannot all do the work of a prophet, or pastor, or teacher, but we can all do the work of an evangelist in some way (2 Tim. 4:5). Let’s pray to God that he will give us a burden for souls.

The church was established by the apostles and prophets; it grows through the work of evangelists, and…

3. The Church Matures Through The Ministry Of “Pastors And Teachers”

He himself gave some to be… pastors and teachers (11c)

Pastors and teachers are probably two related functions that go hand in hand. Pastors are “shepherds”. They care for the flock of the Good Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28) by supplying spiritual leadership and protection from spiritual danger.

Teachers work hand-in-hand with pastors by providing the flock of God with spiritual food through instruction. It has been well said that every pastor must be a teacher, but every teacher is not necessarily a pastor. There are many teachers of the Word who don’t function as pastors (such as teachers at Bible colleges and seminaries).

Christ’s servants, then, are gifts to the church for the benefit of the entire body of believers (1 Cor. 12:7). Through the exercise of their gifts, the body of Christ grows and matures. That’s why the church is the place where “We Grow in our Maturity through Christ’s Servants”. It is also the place where …

II. We Grow In Our Maturity… For Christ’s Service (12)

1. We Mature For Christ’s Service As... We Are Trained For Ministry

Church leaders are to equip (train) the saints (12a). They are to train and prepare the members of the body for constructive and unified service, by each member carrying out his or her appointed function (2 Tim. 3:17). Equipping means to make each member fit for carrying out their function. It means that those in leadership must feed the members with nutritious spiritual food and train them in the proper use of their gifts in the church.

When we are properly equipped for our God-given task in the body of Christ, the church will work right - it will be healthy and it will grow. It will work together in harmony as we complement one another in the use of our gifts.

No one person’s gift dominates the others. “Arms,” for example, do not grow while “legs” stay paralyzed. One member does not mature while another remains stunted. Rather, the body grows together and matures as we are trained for ministry.

We mature for Christ’s service as we are trained for ministry. And…

2. We Mature For Christ’s Service As… We Work In Ministry

Our gifts are to be used for the work of the ministry (12b). Every Christian has a role to play in the ministry of the church. Ministry is not the sole responsibility of the pastoral staff, “but the privileged calling of all the people of God.” 2 That’s why it’s so important to identify each person’s gift and to train them in the use of their gift. Everyone has something to contribute to the church’s ministry. Everyone has been gifted by God to contribute to the work of the ministry.

The task of church leaders is to help each person identify their spiritual gift, train them in the use of that gift, give them opportunity to use that gift, and then affirm them in their gift. There is no such thing as a non-serving Christian. We have all been called to salvation and thus also to service.

So, we mature for Christ’s service (1) as we are trained for ministry, (2) as we work in ministry, and…

3. We Mature For Christ’s Service As… We Edify Others In Ministry

Each person’s spiritual gift is to be used for the benefit of all in the church, for the edifying of the body of Christ (12c). The end result of using our gifts for God is that the body of Christ is edified – i.e. built up and strengthened spiritually and numerically.

If every member’s gift is to be used for the benefit of all, then you can see the dire consequences that result when that gift is not used - the body won’t function properly, just as our physical bodies don’t function properly if one part is out of order.

A few years ago I had a medical condition called a “frozen shoulder”. Before it occurred, I didn’t notice all the work my shoulder did, but now, I have the utmost respect for it. As soon as it stopped working properly, I suddenly realized how much I depended on it and needed it. Just so in the church, when one member fails to use his or her gift for the work of the ministry the body can’t function properly because it is not edified properly.

As we work together, the body of Christ is edified. No one person can properly build up the church on their own, neither does any one person have all the gifts to do so. But when we have been trained and do the work of the ministry, when all of us do our part by exercising our God-given gift, then the body of Christ is built up and nourished so that it grows and flourishes.

The church is the place where we “grow together in maturity”. It is the place where (1) we grow in our maturity through Christ’s Servants; (2) we grow in our maturity for Christ’s service, and it’s the place where…

III. We Grow In Our Maturity… In Christ’s Likeness (13-16)

The real evidence of spiritual maturity is “Christ-likeness”. As each person is trained in the use of their gift and puts their gift to use in the work of the ministry, so the church is built up and each person matures in Christ-likeness.

The First Level Of Maturity In Christ-Likeness Is… Doctrinal Maturity

Until we all come to the unity of the faith (13a)

This refers to unity in our understanding of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Spiritual maturity comes through the accurate teaching and application of the Word by pastors and teachers. As this takes place, the results become apparent by the common confession of one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (4:5-6).

As the Word is taught and applied properly, the church is united. We all come to the unity of the faith. When the church is working properly there is a general spiritual maturity. It’s not that everyone has the same spiritual or intellectual capacity but that there are no schisms in the body over these central doctrines.

The Second Level Of Maturity In Christ-Likeness Is… Relational Maturity

Until we all come to… the knowledge of the Son of God” (13b).

Relational maturity comes with doctrinal maturity. Just as we all come to the unity of the faith, so we all come to the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. Spiritual maturity is not only doctrinal (it’s not just about the faith), but spiritual maturity is also relational.

Unity of the faith leads to unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. In other words, as we mature in our knowledge of God and his Word, so we mature in our knowledge of Christ. Then, that knowledge moves from our heads to our hearts and our relationship with him deepens. As our relationship with Christ deepens so our unity intensifies because he is the centre of our faith and the focus of our knowledge.

If the first level of maturity in Christ-likeness is doctrinal and the second level is relational, then…

The Third And Final Level Of Maturity In Christ-Likeness Is … Perfect Maturity

Like physical maturity, spiritual maturity is progressive. Spiritual maturity progresses from spiritual childhood to spiritual adulthood until we all come… to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (13c).

Full grown, adult maturity represents full development. So, the spiritually mature person is in the prime of spiritual life, full of spiritual vigor and vitality, strong in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.

The final step in our walk together in maturity is when we are so like Christ that it fills us to overflowing; when we, to some degree, measure up to him; and when our completeness is found in him, nothing lacking. Then we have arrived at the fullness of Christ. Whether we ever attain the stature of the fullness of Christ in this world is not made clear, but that is where we are to aim.

The objective of this maturity process is stability: …that we should no longer be infants tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (14).

Spiritually immature Christians are easily persuaded by others. Like children, they are unstable in their convictions, susceptible to false teachings, easily slipped up by craftiness and trickery. But full grown, mature Christians are stable in their convictions. They leave behind their spiritual immaturity with its instability, gullibility, and impressionability, and they stand firm in their doctrinal convictions and Christian relationships.

So, How Do Fully Mature Christians Act?

1. Fully mature Christians do not mimic deceitful men with their craftiness (14) but they communicate the truth in love (15a).

Sometimes people say: “I was just being honest” as though that was adequate justification for saying something unkind. But there is never justification for saying something which, although it may be true, is not wrapped in love. Someone has said, to speak the truth without love is cruel; to love without truth is irresponsible; to speak the truth in love is spiritual.

How would you characterize your speech? Do you communicate the truth in love?

Or, do you love without proclaiming the truth?

2. Fully mature Christians are united in their growth toward Christ-likeness. They grow up in all things into him who is the head – Christ (15b). They are like a plant that pushes through the soil, reaching for the light.

3. Fully mature Christians act like a human body. They take their direction from their Head who is Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth for the body for the edifying of itself in love (16).

They are controlled by their Head who gives them direction. Then the individual parts of the body of Christ act in unity with one another: every part does its share. Each limb, muscle, and joint does its assigned task so that the whole body acts in unison, which, in turn, causes growth for the body for the edifying of itself in love. Love is the lubrication that oils the machinery (cf. 1 Cor. 13); it is the soil out of which…growth in unity takes place. 3

Conclusions

This is how Christians are to mature progressively. This is the goal to which we must aim. Now lets ask ourselves some searching questions:

Are we progressing in our spiritual maturity as we walk together? Are we growing up to maturity in Christ? Or, is our growth stunted? Are our leaders training the members for work in the ministry? Do we give opportunity for people to edify others through their ministry? Are we as individuals and as a church becoming more Christ-like? Do we manifest that by acting in unity with one another, harmoniously going about our ministry, taking our instructions from our Head?

These are hard questions. To some of these we would have to respond that we fall short of the standard. What Christian would claim to have achieved the level of a perfect man? Or, the full measure of the stature of Christ?

Though the standard is hard to reach, that does not excuse us for not trying. If we fail to strive toward this goal, we are admitting that not only are we not mature, but we don’t think we can be. Even the apostle Paul said that he had not already attained the relationship or identification with Christ that he desired: Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect; but I press on (Phil. 3:12). Not having arrived is no reason to fail to strive for it: I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead, I press toward the mark (Phil. 3:13-14).

Let us press toward the mark as a body of believers, united in our resolve to become fully Christ-like even if that is not attained until our glorification. Let us resolve to encourage one another, learn from one another, build up each other, esteem each other highly in love for their works sake.

Let us ensure that our church is a mature church, one that is fully equipped so that (1) all the members are exercising their gift, (2) the entire body is growing and becoming more Christ-like, (3) the truth is communicated lovingly, and (4) all our component parts are acting in harmony with each other and with the Lord.


1 1001 Humorous Illustrations, # 918.

2 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979), 167.

3 Arthur G. Patzia, Ephesians, New International Biblical Commentary, ed. W. Ward Gasque (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 247.

Related Topics: Christian Life

3. Pursuing Purity Together, Pt. 1: Contrasting Principles Of Living (4:17-24)

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Introduction

The basis of Christian community is to “walk together in unity” (see article 1 in this series, Eph. 4:1-6). We have all heard and responded to the same call of God on our lives, a call that is to be exhibited in our common attitudes and our common confession. We must also “grow together in maturity” (see article 2 in this series, Eph. 4:7-16). We were spiritual infants in Christ when we responded to the call of God but infants cannot stay infants – we grow. We grow in our maturity (1) through Christ’s servants who teach and lead us; (2) for Christ’s service by working in ministry and edifying others; (3) in Christ-likeness as we grow up in him.

In addition, we must also “pursue purity together” (Eph. 4:17-24). That’s our subject in this article. This is the new principle for living that God expects of his people. This is the ethical change that takes place in our lives, one that is not merely inward and spiritual but outward and visible.

The conversion experience precipitates this radical change. We have been called to be one people, so we must cultivate unity (1-6). We have been called to be spiritual people, so we must cultivate maturity (7-16). We have been called to be holy people (4:24), so we must cultivate purity.

Purity is demanded by God of his people. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord (17a). It’s the Lord’s authority that demands a new way of living. This radical change of living is described by a series of contrasts: (1) contrasting principles for living; (2) contrasting practices for living; and (3) contrasting programs for living. In this article, we will cover contrasting principles for living (4:17-24). The thesis of this passage is: Dont live like unbelievers but live like Jesus.

This involves a radical change in the way we live. The radical change in the life of a believer is described by two contrasting principles for living – one negative and one positive. First the negative…

I. Don’t Live Like The Ungodly… In Corruption That Stems From Deceit (17-19)

You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk (17b)

We must make a clean break from our former way of life. If there is to be unity in the church, we must separate ourselves from the rest of the Gentiles and their ungodly way of life which we once followed. We must be distinct from the rest of our society by not living like them because their lifestyle is totally contrary to the Christian life. We are radically different now and our thinking and behaviour must show it.

This whole new way of life is what unites the church. It brings together Jews and Gentiles, blacks and whites, rich and poor, by adopting a whole new set of principles for living. Our new way of living bears no resemblance to the way the ungodly live…

1. The Ungodly Live… In “Intellectual Darkness” (17c-18a)

… in the futility of their minds, having their understanding darkened.

Their thinking is futile and their understanding is darkened. At best their thinking is shallow and at worst empty, purposeless and vain. Their minds are spiritually darkened because the light of God has no entrance there; they refuse him who speaks from heaven.

In contrast, our minds have been spiritually illuminated. Our clouded understanding has been clarified by the Spirit of God so that we can see and understand the things of God. The eyes of (our) understanding (have been) enlightened (Eph. 1:18). For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6)

2. The Ungodly Live… In “Spiritual Deadness” (18b)

… being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.

This is their inward, unregenerate condition, estranged from God, separated from the life of God, unreconciled and at enmity with him because of the ignorance and hardness of their hearts.

Ignorance isn’t bliss in spiritual matters. Those who are ignorant are still guilty before God because their ignorance stems from the sin of a hardened heart. They obstinately reject the truth of God and harden themselves to God and to the knowledge of him.

The ungodly are intellectually and morally blind which is the end result of a progressive, downward, spiritual spiral. Their hardness of heart and darkness of mind sweeps them into a vortex of spiritual alienation from God so that they are spiritually dead.

So, the ungodly live (1) in intellectual darkness, (2) in spiritual deadness, and…

3. The Ungodly Live… In “Moral Depravity” (19)

… being past feeling, (they) have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Intellectual darkness, spiritual deadness, and moral depravity are the results of hard heartedness. “Hardness of heart leads first to darkness of mind, then to deadness of soul under the judgment of God, and finally to recklessness of life.” 1 Such is the quicksand of spiritual depravity.

To harden your heart to God is the beginning of a course that sucks you irresistibly downward. To harden your heart to God and close your mind to the truth of God produces callousness toward God, that inability to feel, the loss of sensitivity to God.

The ganglia nerves are the tiny nerve branches which go out from the main nerves. They cover our body so that we cannot stick a pin in the body without a message flashing to the mind to warn us of an invasion into our body. This is a fantastic warning system that protects our very life. Spiritually, we must have the same sensitivity which warns us of harmful spiritual danger. 2 Once the conscience is seared and the feelings have become deadened there is no end to the kinds of sensuality and debauchery that you may give way to.

When spiritual constraint is thrown off so is moral constraint. Deadness of soul leads to recklessness of life. The soul that is past feeling gives itself up to immorality and an insatiable appetite for uncleanness – coarseness, vulgarity, profanity. “Having lost all sensitivity, people lose all self-control”.3

If you engage in indecent conduct, it soon becomes all-consuming. There is a continual urge for more and the activities desired become more and more perverted. That’s the way of the ungodly.

What is, arguably, the most powerful, most readily available and most addictive source of evil today? I believe it is internet-based pornography. The internet has single-handedly promoted sexual perversion and pornography probably more than any other means of communication in the history of the world. In fact, the revenue generated from pornography is greater now than the revenue from the entire alcohol and tobacco industries combined!

There is nothing that the human heart is incapable of! Let this be a warning to us as believers. Don’t be deceived by curiosity about things which may consume you. Don’t be deceived by things that corrupt your mind and soil your spirit! Don’t be deceived by uncleanness that mars your fellowship with God and taints your soul!

The negative principle for living is: “Don’t live like the ungodly in corruption that stems from deceit!” In contrast, the positive principle for living is…

II. Live Like Jesus… In Purity That Stems From The Truth (20-24)

The ungodly live in corruption but as for you, you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus (20-21). Paul says: “That’s how the ungodly live. But you left that way of life when you were saved. Christians have no part in that lifestyle. That’s the way of the ungodly! But as for you, that’s another matter. That’s not what you have learned or been taught.”

The Ephesians had to learn an entirely different way of life. “Your life in Christ is not like your life before you knew Christ,” Paul says. “Before you knew Christ, you walked in intellectual darkness, in spiritual deadness, and in moral depravity. But now as Christians, you know the moral teaching of Christ. You know the truth as it is in Jesus and your life is changed.”

They had learned about Christ; they had heard him and been taught by him. Through the teaching of the apostles, it was just as though Christ himself had spoken to them and taught them. They had learned what it is to imitate Christ and to live Christ. They had learned and been taught the truth as it is in Jesus.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize Winner, once said, “One word of truth shall outweigh the world.” That’s true. The word of truth that is in Jesus far outweighs anything that the deceit of the ungodly can offer. The truth that Jesus embodied is the truth by which we are to walk. We are to walk just as he walked (1 Jn. 2:6). Jesus said, You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free (Jn. 8:32). Just as ignorance binds the ungodly in darkness and produces in them unrighteousness, so the truth sets Christians free and produces in us righteousness and holiness.

What is the truth that is in Jesus? How do we live like Jesus?

1. You Live Like Jesus… By Changing Your Identity (22, 24)

… concerning your former conduct, putting off the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts… and putting on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (22, 24).

When Paul uses the term “man” he is referring to our “self” - either what we were in the flesh prior to our conversion (the “old man”), or what we are in Christ after conversion (the “new man”).

The truth is that becoming a Christian demands a radical change of life, a total break with the past way of life. It’s described here in terms of a change of clothing. The old clothes are taken off and the new put on.

Becoming a Christian signifies a complete change of identity. It’s an exchange of our old humanity for a new creation of God. It’s putting off our old nature, which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (22b) and putting on a new nature, which was created according to God (24b).

We repudiate our old self, that old nature, which characterized our former way of life without God, which was deformed and spiritually ruined, and which was dominated by its lusts and uncontrolled passions. And we adopt a new self, new nature, which is full of fresh spiritual life, created after God’s likeness.

The old and the new are completely incompatible. The old is what we were in Adam; the new is what we are in Christ.

A London businessman told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior. As he showed a prospective buyer the property, the businessman took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out garbage. “Forget about the repairs,” the buyer said. “When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different. I don’t want the building; I want the site.” 4

Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball. When we become God’s, the old life is over (2 Cor. 5:17). He makes all things new.

Such is the exchanged life that conversion produces. What was corrupt is exchanged for a new creation. What was driven by its passions is exchanged for holiness. What was marked by deceit is exchanged for truth.

This radical transformation is a continual process in our lives. We don’t repeat the event but we “continue to live out its significance by giving up on that old person that (we) no longer are.” 5 As new people of God we must put into practice what God has already done in principle in us. In this sense there is a continual “putting off” and a “putting on.”

But we cannot effect this change on our own. It only comes about through the “new man” which is created in Gods likeness (24b). The new man is, literally, “created like God.” The image of God in us that was marred at the Fall has been recreated. We are new creatures in Christ, for old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17). The old man walked in the lust of the flesh but the new man is created according to God to live in purity (cf. Col. 3:10). The new man has a life that is patterned after God’s life (cf. 5:1) and, therefore, the new man has a new principle of living that is according to God.

What God has created must be appropriated by us. At conversion, God sovereignly gives us a new nature that is suited to, and participates in, his divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Now it’s our responsibility to live as those who have an entirely new order of being, an entirely new frame of reference, an entirely new mode of operation.

This new life is known by purity that stems from the truth, by righteousness and holiness which come from the truth (24c). This is its stamp of identification in stark contrast to the old life. The life of the old man was identified by lewdness and uncleanness (4:19) but the life of the new man, God’s new creation, is plainly identified by righteousness and holiness - those good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (2:10). The life of the new man is the very life of God so much so that God’s righteousness and holiness are duplicated in us and by us.

God has provided the means for us to live lives that are according to God. It is our responsibility to “put on” that new life by practicing his righteousness and his holiness. This is the ethical principle for our whole manner of life. This is the sum and substance of Christian living. By following this principle for living, we display those qualities that are most like God.

We are to practice his righteousness because we are created to be righteous just like him: He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous (1 Jn. 3:7). We are to practice his holiness because we are created to be holy just like him. Be holy as I am holy (1 Pet. 2:16). This is the truth of the new life that we have in Christ, a life that necessitates a radical change in who we are, how we live, and how we think.

To be a Christian means not only that Christ has revealed himself to us and we know him as Saviour and Lord, but also that we begin to live according to these contrasting principles for living because we are new people now.

Do you know this radically changed way of life? If you profess to be a Christian, is your life different now from what it was before? If you are truly born again, it must be! Is your life characterized by purity based on the truth as it is in Jesus?

You live like Jesus by “changing your identity” and…

2. You Live Like Jesus By… Changing Your Thinking (23)

… renewed in the spirit of your mind

Christian conversion involves inner renewal. The change that takes place at conversion is both internal and external. Our behaviour changes externally (by putting off the old and putting on the new) and our thinking changes internally. We think differently as well as act differently. We are transformed in our behaviour as well as in our thinking.

We are renewed inwardly through a change in our minds. Mind renewal is the first and foremost characteristic of being a Christian. Be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Rom. 12:2). The ungodly are known by the “futility” of their minds: Christians are known by the “renewal” of their minds. Like the exchange of the old man for the new, mind renewal is a continuous process that begins at conversion.

We must discipline our minds, set them on things above not on things on the earth (Col. 3:2). We must reject those things that would pollute our minds, the obscenities and vanities of the world. The whole spirit of our mind must be regenerated so that it is consistent with who we are.

What you think about is only known by you and God. I cannot determine what you are thinking about (cf. 1 Cor. 2:11), what you are lusting after, what you are contemplating. Because it’s so private, it’s an area that is often not under control. But remember, what you think about shapes how you act and who you are (Prov. 23:7; Matt. 15:19). Our minds that were tainted by sin have been renewed so that we can think clearly and spiritually. Our new creation gives us a new mind and our new mind causes us to act in conformity with the life of God. That’s the sequence.

Conclusions

These, then, are the contrasting principles for Christian living. This is the way of living that is fundamental to the radical change that takes place as we seek to live together in purity. Corruption and deceit separate; truth and purity unite.

Often, it’s not easy to adopt thiese new principles for living. Our old nature likes the way we were and it tries to draw us back there. It’s difficult to leave the old life.

For 11 years Merham Karimi Nasseri was a man without a country. For 11 years he lived in a Paris airport. He had no passport. He had no citizenship. He had no papers to permit him to leave the airport or fly to another country. He had been expelled from his native country of Iran. Then was sent away from Paris because he lacked documentation. He said his Belgian-issued refugee document had been stolen. He flew to England but was denied entry and sent back to Paris. When he was returned to the Paris airport in 1988, airport authorities allowed him to live in Terminal 1, and there he stayed for 11 years, writing a diary, living off handouts from airport employees, cleaning up in the airport bathroom.

Then in September, 1999, the situation reversed. French authorities presented Nasseri with an international travel card and a French residency permit. Suddenly he was free to go anywhere he wanted. But when airport officials handed him his walking papers, to everyone’s surprise, he simply smiled, tucked the documents in his folder, and resumed writing his diary. They found he was afraid to leave the bench and table that had been his home for 11 years. As the days passed and Nasseri refused to leave, airport officials said they would not throw him out of the airport, but they would have to gently and patiently coax him to find a new home.

An airport isn’t the kind of place anyone would normally choose to live. It’s bustling and interesting but not home. But that was Nasseri’s life and changing that way of life was more threatening than staying.

When we come to Christ, we are called to make dramatic changes to our way of life. We are called from our old way of life (the way of the ungodly; the way of corruption and deceit) to a new way of life (a life of purity and truth; a life that was modelled by Christ). We’re different now. 6

The truth that is found in Jesus has made all the difference. It’s the line of demarcation between the old life and the new life. It isn’t a matter of turning over a new leaf, or of making a New Year’s resolution, or of any merit in ourselves. It’s a matter of what God has done in Christ on our behalf in redeeming us; in giving us a new nature that delights to please him; and in illuminating us with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit so that we can understand the truth as it is in Jesus. That’s what has made the difference in our lives.

That’s what has made us different from the rest of the Gentiles (17). That’s what enables us to live together in community by exchanging a life of impurity for a life of purity. We have learned the truth and the truth has set us free - free from the bondage of sin - and brought us into the glorious liberty of Christ. We have been freed by the truth and we must live by the truth as Jesus did in righteousness and holiness.

Is this contrasting principle for living true of you? Do you, through the knowledge of the truth, pursue purity with God’s people? Do you practice the righteousness and holiness that come from the truth? Do you live as those who are no longer slaves to sin but servants to righteousness (Rom. 6:6 and 18)?

Note: In this article I have covered “Pursuing Purity Together, Part 1: Contrasting Principles of Living” (Eph. 4:17-24). See also subsequent articles: “Pursuing Purity Together, Part 2: Contrasting Practices of Living” (Eph. 4:25-32) and “Pursuing Purity Together, Part 3: Contrasting Programs for Living” (Eph. 5:1-21).


1 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 177.

2 Floyd Strater, Sermon Outlines on Ephesians, 36.

3 Stott, 177.

4 Cited by Ian L. Wilson, in Leadership, vol. 4, no. 3.

5 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians (Word Biblical Commentary), 285.

6 Adapted from Ray Mosely, At Last, Airport Prisoner Gets His Walking Paper, Chicago Tribune,(9-21-99); Suzanne Daley, 11 Years Caged in an Airport: Now He Fears to Fly, N.Y. Time, 9-27-99.

Related Topics: Christian Life

4. Pursuing Purity Together, Pt. 2: Contrasting Practices Of Living (4:25-32)

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Introduction

I have read that in Thailand they break wild elephants into domestic use by chaining them to banyan trees. The pain the elephants experience by pulling against the restraint gradually breaks their will to resist. When an elephant finally refuses to lift its massive leg in an effort to free itself, the workers release it from the tree and secure it to a stake. The beast could easily pull the stake from the ground like a toothpick, but it remembers the pain and isn’t smart enough to realize that circumstances have changed.

Although Christians are freed from Satan’s power, we sometimes act as if we are still imprisoned by it. He lies, telling us we cannot escape. But we are not elephants: we are intelligent enough to see the shackles of sin laid aside and to feel the freedom that Christ brings. Why continue to be chained to the habits of the old man (before we knew Christ) when he has freed us to live in the new man?

This article is Part 2 of “Pursuing Purity Together” (Eph. 4:17-5:21). In this article, we move from the general to the specific, from contrasting principles for living (see “Pursuing Purity Together,” Pt. 1, Eph. 4:17-24) to contrasting practices of living (Eph. 4:25-32); from “putting off” and “putting on” certain principles to “putting off” and “putting on” certain practices. It’s not easy to give up (“put off”) bad habits like lying, stealing, and foul language. Sometimes some of these practices linger after we are saved. But we are to put an end to the practices of the “old man” and adopt the practices of the “new man.”

The injunction in the passage we are studying in this article is: Let us practice living like the new man and renounce the practices of the old. Just as the Christian principles for living (Eph. 4:17-24) are different from non-Christians, so are the practices. All of these practices have common features:

  1. They all affect our unity in the body – living in community. Those practices to be put off destroy unity. Those practices to be put on generate unity.
  2. They can all be reduced to the common denominator of “holiness.” If we practice holiness we will live according to these Christian practices of living. Without holiness we will never live as God intends us to live.
  3. Every practice to “put off” is accompanied by a practice to “put on.” The practices of the old man have to be “put off” before the practices of the new man can be “put on.”
  4. Every injunction is accompanied by a practical reason.

In this article we are going to examine five “Contrasting Practices of Living” as we live together in community as Christians.

Contrasting Practice #1: Speaking Truth... Not Lies (Eph. 4:25)

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour,” for we are members of one another.

Therefore connects this passage with the previous passage (4:17-24). In our study of the previous passage, one of the principles of Christian living is: “Don’t live like the ungodly in corruption that stems from deceit” (4:17-19) but “live like Jesus in purity that stems from the truth” (4:20-24). In the Christian life, truth takes the place of lying; trust takes the place of mistrust; honesty takes the place of dishonesty.

Therefore, (Paul writes), putting away lying A false tongue is typical of the “old man” - who we were before we were saved. Human nature hasn’t changed. Dishonesty and falsehood prevail (Rom. 1:29). In contrast, Christians are to live in purity and one of the evidences of purity is putting away lying, which we do by putting away (putting off) the old man with its deceit. The opposite of lying is to speak the truth.

The one who is most affected by lying is our neighbour - i.e. anyone we have contact with and in particular our fellow-Christians. To lie to another member of the body of Christ is to deceive someone with whom we are inseparably bound together by the Holy Spirit for we are members one of another.

Truth is the basis of Christian unity. It has been my observation over the years that speaking the truth is a real problem, not just among unbelievers but among Christians as well. You cannot deal with someone who lies to you: there is no basis for a relationship, just as God could not maintain a relationship with Adam and Eve when they lied. The same goes for Ananias and Sapphira.

Lying is a serious problem. If we are going to put on the new man…in true righteousness and holiness (24), we must speak the truth with each other in love (4:15). Our fellow Christians have the right to expect the truth from us. There is no room for lying in the body of Christ because it poisons communication, and breeds suspicion and distrust. Harmonious relationships in the church can only exist in an environment of open and honest communication. If we belong to the truth how can we tell lies? Satan is the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). The “truth as it is in Jesus” (21) is what we should be known by - a community marked by honesty and trustworthiness. Our word must be our bond. As Jesus said, Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No. (Matt. 5:37).

Contrasting Practice #2: Exercising Self-Control… Not Anger (26-27)

Be angry and do not sin (26a)

If lying is a problem for Christians, so is anger. There are many angry people in the church. This ought not to be. It causes rifts in the body, tears us apart, and quenches the work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul is not recommending that we be angry. Quite the opposite is the case – we are to put away anger (31). Anger is an emotion that does not characterize the new man. But that does not mean that Christians ought not to be angry at all. The point here is: “If you become angry, do not sin”. To paraphrase it: “Anger must be avoided at all cost but if you get angry do not indulge such anger, so that you do not sin”. 1 Don’t let anger get the better of you; don’t let it be mixed with sin. Be slow to anger James warns (Ja. 1:19).

There are legitimate causes for anger. God expresses anger but his anger never compromises his holiness. He was angry with Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:9) and with Israel (2 Kgs. 17:18), and God is angry with the wicked every day (Ps. 7:11). Jesus was angry with the Pharisees (Mk. 3:5); and with the money changers (Matt. 21:12). This is righteous anger.

Righteous anger is not rooted in sin, rather it is directed at sin. We ought to be angry at our own sin and society’s sin, but, sadly, those are the things that rarely make us angry. When was the last time you were angry over sin, like pornography, abortion, homosexuality - those blatant sins which our society overlooks and considers normal?

God hates sin and so should we. The problem is that very little anger is motivated by righteousness, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Ja. 1:20). Anger that goes unchecked is definitely not righteous anger. Anger at persons is sin; anger at sin is not. Righteous anger against sin unites the people of God. When the body of Christ unites in opposition to evil, unity of purpose and holiness reigns within.

Anger need not be sinful but it can easily become sinful. Anger is sinful when its cause is not something that God would be angry at  - i.e. something that incites our flesh, our  emotions, our old nature; an outburst of wrath which is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). Anger is sinful when it degenerates to hate, resentment, bitterness; when it is prolonged and unchecked; when it is marked by personal animosity. All such causes and demonstrations of anger are not righteous anger.

To prevent anger from becoming sinful, Paul says Do not let the sun go down on your wrath (26b). Sundown was an important time of day for the Ancient Near Eastern society. It was when a moneylender had to restore a poor person’s cloak which had been given as security for a loan. It was the time when an employer had to pay a poor servant his wages. It was the time of reckoning.

Sin can be avoided by putting a termination on anger, by keeping it short. Don’t hold it over to the next day, don’t foster it, don’t nurse it. Don’t prolong it, don’t let it smoulder or fester. Don’t let it degenerate into an angry mood or sullen countenance. Don’t fall in love with it. In other words, don’t let anger become wrath.

An additional way to keep your anger in check is: Do not give place to the devil (27). Don’t give the devil a foothold in your life. This is a strong motivation for not allowing anger to become sin. Satan loves to take a strong emotion like anger and make it part of your nature, to become a grievance or grudge or bitterness, an unforgiving spirit.

Anger can do irreparable damage in the body of Christ. It ought never to be displayed among the saints of God. It destroys harmony and causes broken relationships with our neighbour. Before it gets hold of you, unburden yourself before the Lord. Before it becomes sin, judge it before God.

We must give no room for the devil to work, no opportunity to take advantage of our anger for his own purposes. If anger is not righteous, then it is unrighteous, and unrighteousness comes from the devil. Don’t yield to him! He is the one who benefits from our sinful anger. The devil sets a snare for angry people in order to exploit their uncontrolled emotion (1 Tim. 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:26).

Lying and anger often go together. One feeds on the other. And they are prevalent in so many people’s lives because Satan has gained a foothold, by provoking them to hatred and deceit.

Contrasting Practice #3: Working… Not Stealing (28)

Let Him Who Steals, Steal No More (28a).

Theft, like lying, is contrary to the truth. It must be abandoned by those who profess and embrace the truth. Theft was common among slaves (Tit. 2:9-10). Onesimus, for example, had probably stolen from his master (Philemon 18).

Thieves justify their actions by saying that it is owed to them: “Take what you can; you deserve it; it’s owing to you.” Sometimes we can adopt thinking like that when an opportunity presents itself to balance the scales with someone who, we rationalize, owes us something. Perhaps you’ve called in to work sick when there was nothing wrong with you and you justified it that the company owed it to you. After all its in your benefit package. Why not take advantage of it? And besides everybody does it!

Perhaps you steal time from your employer by talking when you should be working, taking an extra few minutes for lunch each day, talking on the phone with your friends during work hours, using the internet at work for non-employment purposes.

As new people in Christ, we should use our hands to work, not steal: …but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good (28b). The root causes of theft are laziness and selfishness. Those who are lazy have idle hands. Paul classified those who do not work as disorderly, busybodies. He told them to work with their hands and if they will not work neither shall they eat (2 Thess. 3:7, 10, 11). Those who are selfish steal from others for personal gain. They think only of themselves and what they want. They think the world owes them a living, and, if others have what they want, they are justified in getting it by any means.

We should place a high value on hard work. Paul did. He laboured night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone (2 Thess. 3:8). Work is hard but it produces good for the labourer’s own family and for others in need. That’s the motivation for working - to share with others in need: so that he may have something to give him who has need (28c). Work is a means of sharing, not for personal benefit but communal benefit. The community of faith is to care for the needy (Rom. 12:13).

Theft tears the body down (robs) but work builds it up (replenishes). This is a radical change from the old man to the new. The thief becomes a philanthropist; taking is replaced with giving; selfishness is redirected to selflessness; miserliness becomes generosity.

Just as we can easily misuse our hands, so we can misuse our mouths...

Contrasting Practice #4: Speaking Constructively… Not Destructively (29-30)

Words have the power to either crush or build up. Speech that tears down is destructive because it corrupts. Destructive speech tears down the spirit of a person, destroys the soul. It harms God’s people by defiling the mind, rotting the character, decaying morals. It is evil and unwholesome - the opposite of speech that is holy, good, and pure. Corrupt speech sounds rotten and putrefies the soul. It reeks of obscenities, abusive language, malicious talk, vulgarity, destructive words.

But speech that builds up is constructive because it nourishes. It builds up our faith, strengthens unity, enhances fellowship. It nourishes our souls, feeds our communion with God. Constructive speech is the language of the community of faith. It edifies and builds up the body of Christ. It provides encouragement, comfort and good will.

Don’t use corrupt, destructive speech. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth (29a). What comes out of the mouth indicates what is in your heart, for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matt. 15:19). On the day of judgement we will have to give account for every careless word spoken (Matt. 12:36).

It is very difficult to cleanse yourself of corrupt words. If you hear them at work or school they have a tendency to stick in your mind. Anyone who has lived in an environment of destructive speech knows that it is difficult to cleanse your mind. Anyone who has used corrupt language knows how difficult it is to cleanse your mouth. Even years later bad thoughts, vile phrases, and profanity recur. “They have the habit in unguarded moments to barge right in and to befoul the atmosphere.” 2 I knew someone years ago who sometimes lost control of her temper and that’s when the corrupt language of the “old man” came out. Peter cursed and swore (Matt. 26:74), and if he did it don’t think you’re exempt.

Don’t use destructive speech but use constructive, edifying speech: …what is good for necessary edification (29b). It isn’t enough just to drop the old language, we must adopt the new. Our speech must not harm others but instead impart grace to the hearers (29c). Let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). In our speech we can be a blessing to our fellow-Christians. As in the use of our hands (28) so in the use of our mouths, they are to be used for the benefit of others.

All that we do and say has an impact on the Holy Spirit within us. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (30). The Holy Spirit is grieved by the practices of the old man, such as lying, anger, stealing, foul language. He is holy and is grieved by everything in us that is unholy - every corrupt word, impure thought, every sinful act. On the other hand, he is honoured by the practices of the new man. Every constructive word, pure thought, and selfless act pleases him. The Holy Spirit indwells us and seals us to the day of redemption. He is the source of our new life in Christ and he sustains us and preserves us to the day of redemption. We are marked and sealed as his own for time and for eternity. Our practice, therefore, should be governed accordingly.

When we grieve the Holy Spirit through wrong practices of living, communal life is disrupted in the church, for He is the Spirit of unity, indwelling and uniting all believers. So, don’t think that you can act anyway you want and get away with it. We don’t live as islands to ourselves. Every word, deed, and thought impacts our personal life and our corporate life. Lying generates mistrust and breaks relationships. Anger allows the devil to play havoc and trap us in sin’s snare. Stealing takes away from others and robs us of the privilege of giving. Evil talk corrupts communication and destroys spiritual power. Instead of speaking words that hurt, use words that heal. Instead of words that kill, use words that give life.

The Holy Spirit has united us and hates discord among us. Lying, inappropriate anger, stealing, and corrupt speech cause discord. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see the Holy Spirit operating in your church or in your own life, there is only one reason - there is something present that quenches his activity.

Now Paul summarizes all that he has already said in one final contrast…

Contrasting Practice #5: Showing Kindness… Not Animosity (31-32)

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice (31). Bitterness is that sour spirit, cynicism, rankling, warped disposition, resentment. Wrath is rage, indignation that has taken up residence in us. Anger is an internal smouldering, a deep-seated feeling of animosity. Clamour refers to violent outbursts of the tongue through loss of temper, raising the voice in anger. Slander is speaking evil of others, defamation of character, destroying someone’s reputation. Malice is wishing evil against others, an evil inclination of the mind toward one’s neighbours. We are to put away these expressions of animosity which harm the community of faith and, in contrast, be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another (32a). Kind people don’t repeat malicious gossip but emphasize the good in others.

Kindness to one another infers goodness of heart, Christ-likeness. To be tender-hearted is to be compassionate towards others. Forgiving one another involves acting in grace, even as God in Christ forgave you (32b). Let us put on these expressions of kindness which nourish the community of faith.

Conclusions

So, the injunction in this passage is this: We must practice living like the new man and renounce the practices of the old man.

I read a story about a certain Korean Christian named Kim, who happened to be a lay leader of his church in a city in North Korea. He asked permission to address the congregation and when this was granted he said:

“You know that though I have been a Christian for some time, I do not have formal training from a Bible College or Seminary. I seek your counsel in a decision which must be made and which will have great ramifications whichever way the decision goes. Let me tell you my story.

A friend of mine who is a doctor from Seoul, Korea, wrote me some time ago, explaining his decision to relocate to our city. He asked me to find him a place where he could both live and have his practice. You know how hard it is to find any place, much less one suitable for such a person. Nevertheless, I looked and finally found a location. I wrote to the doctor and informed him that the only place I could find was old and run down, in much need of repair, in a terrible neighbourhood, and could only be purchased at an enormous price.

To my surprise, the doctor sent word to secure the property and sent also the down payment needed. I went to the owner who gladly received the down payment and agreed to vacate the premises. In a couple of days the previous owner was still there and asked for an extension so that they would be able to find suitable lodging. I agreed to give him another week. But at the end of the week, he was still there.

Then a month went by, two months, six months, a year – and he’s still there! He and his family all have new clothes and eat the best foods. When I come around, he just laughs at me. Now, my question is: What should be done?”

With one accord, the church elders all agreed that the man should be evicted, by force if necessary, from the dwelling. “Thank you for your advice,” said Brother Kim. “Now, let me remind you that almost two thousand years ago Jesus came to buy you with an enormous price – although you were in ruins and your life was a shambles. He sent his Holy Spirit as a down payment and he desires to take up residence in your heart. Isn’t it about time we evicted the old man and let Jesus take up full residence?”


1 Andrew Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary, 301.

2 William Hendriksen, Ephesians, New Testament Commentary, 220

Related Topics: Christian Life

5. Pursuing Purity Together, Pt. 3: Contrasting Programs For Living (Eph. 5:1-21)

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Introduction

We live in a self-centred, sex-craved world that insists on instant self-gratification - no waiting, impulse buying, impetuous decisions. The core value is: “Just give me what I want and give it to me now!” Sex plays a central part in this attitude: easy-come-easy-go relationships, no commitment, no love, purely physical. And the current of the age always seems to have an impact on the church. What we see and hear around us seems to creep into the church. If you’re exposed to a lifestyle for long enough you can easily adopt its values.

But Christians are called to a very different practice of living. The “new man” practices a lifestyle that is wholly different from the world. His goal is to be like Christ, to be perfect as he is perfect.

We’re still talking about: “Pursuing Purity Together.” In part 1, we covered the general “Contrasting Principles for Living” (4:17-24) and in part 2, the specific “Contrasting Practices of Living” (4:25-32) – i.e. individual characteristics of living. Now, in part 3, our subject is “Contrasting Programs for Living”.

Principles specify the standards and values we seek to adhere to. Practices are the outworking of those principles in daily life. So, there are principles to live by and there are practices that reflect those principles. What ties the two together is your program for living. A program is a plan that governs our practices, actions, beliefs, based on our principles.

Let me give you an example of principle, practice, and program in the area of flight. There are principles for flying an airplane – e.g. the law of aerodynamics; thrust etc. And there are practices that reflect those principles – the use of the flaps, the air speed of the plane etc. There is also a program for flying a plane. The program (plan) takes into account the principles and practices of flying. The program is its flight path (course); the time of departure and arrival; ground speed; altitude etc. The program that governs the plane can only be accomplished if the pilot adheres to the principles and practices of flying.

Programs are a normal and regular aspect of many functions in life. If you attend a musical concert, it will have a program that sets out what will be presented, the sequence of events, and who the participants are. A college education follows a program – what courses to take, what the qualifications and expectations are, and when the program is offered. Computers operate with programs which determine what they can do. Weight loss clinics follow programs that determine what you can eat, when and how to exercise. Sometimes we’ll say to someone: “Get with the program”, by which we mean “get on board with what we’re trying to do here; adopt the same goals and plans.”

A “program for living” is what underlies our principles and practices. It’s our core values in life, our driving force, the foundation of our lives, the governing rule of life. It sets the pattern and the standards, and determines your focus. Eph. 5:1-21 sets out three contrasting programs for living:

Program #1: Live A God-Centred Life... Not A Self-Centred Life (5:1-7)

This first contrasting program for living states that: “You can live for God or you can live for self. So, let me ask you at the outset of this study:

  • What is the underlying premise of your life?
  • What governs your beliefs and how your actions?
  • What are the core values in your life?
  • What is your program for living?
  • Are you programmed to live a God-centred life or a self-centred life?

The injunction in our text is this: Christians living together in community need to live a God-centred life as our program for living.

A. Live A God-Centred Life (1-2)

1. A God-Centred Life Imitates God’s Holy Nature (1)

Therefore be imitators of God (1a)1

Therefore refers back to the previous passage (4:25-32), to the practice of living like the new man. Living like the new man is to live a God-centred life. If you are living like the new man you will imitate God. The life of the new man is based on the program of a God-centred life. It’s a life that has God as its focal point, that has God at the centre of your being, that imitates him, that is like him. To imitate God is to be holy because that is his essential nature. As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct because it is written, Be holy for I am holy’ “(1 Pet. 1:15-16; cf. Eph. 1:4)

The Christian life is a reproduction of godliness. God’s purpose in redemption is to reverse the effects of the Fall by recreating us in righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24) and by conforming us to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). The goal in true Christian living is to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48). For this we must strive and, ultimately, we shall be perfectly like him when we see him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2).

How can we imitate God’s holy nature? Isn’t this expecting too much? How can we ever match up to the God who created the universe in unsullied purity, untarnished love? How can we imitate someone whom we have never seen and can’t comprehend? Like Zophar we ask: Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven - what can you do? Deeper than Sheol - what can you know? (Job 11:7-8).

We can imitate God in the same way that children imitate their father. Be imitators of God as beloved children (1b). We cannot imitate God’s divine attributes since they belong only to deity (e.g. omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience). But we can imitate his nature – his mercy, grace, holiness etc. (1) because we know what he is like from creation, from his Word, and from the life and teachings of Christ; (2) because we are created in his image, made to be like him; (3) because his Spirit dwells in us and makes us like him; and (4) because we are his dear children.

Children naturally imitate their parents. They have their parents’ nature and so imitate their actions and adopt their values. And children who know that they are dearly loved by their father will be the most eager to imitate him.

We are God’s dear children whom he loved so much that he gave his Son to die for us. Therefore, as his children we should be zealous to imitate him. Because he is holy, we want to be holy, like Him.

2. A God-Centred Life Imitates God’s Holy Love (2)

Be imitators of God … and walk in love as Christ also has loved us (2a). When we imitate God we will walk in love (1) because “God is love” and we will imitate his love; (2) because he has poured his love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5) and we will pour out that love to others in imitation of him.

How can we imitate God’s love? Isn’t his a love that knows no limits, shows no partiality, has no favourites? Doesn’t he love even when those he loves hate him? Isn’t his love the essence of who he is and therefore absolutely pure? Is it possible for finite human beings to imitate God’s holy love?

We can imitate God’s holy love by copying Christ’s example. Walk in love as Christ also has loved us. To imitate God is to imitate Christ because they are one in essence, thought, and purpose. The example of love that we are to follow is not any old love. It’s not our mother’s love, or father’s love, or the love of our spouse or a friend. The love of a God-centred life is patterned after Christ’s example. That’s how we are to imitate God’s holy love - by loving others in the same way that Christ loved us.

How has Christ loved us? He loved us by giving himself (2b). His love was a willing love, a voluntary love, an uncoerced love. He willingly gave up his life because he loved us so. His love was purposeful, unconditional, a gift (Gal. 2:20). He loved us by giving himself for us. He was willing to take our place before God, to be our substitute. He gave himself not for a cause but for a people - for us. He gave himself for us not because there was any merit in ourselves (Rom. 5:8, 10) but because he sovereignly bestowed his love on us.

He loved us by giving himself for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a sweet smelling aroma (2c). He offered himself to God as a sacrifice to appease God’s wrath and to meet God’s holy demands for our sin. He sacrificed himself so that we could go free and be reconciled to God through his blood. He laid himself on the altar in full surrender like a fragrant aroma rising up to God, well-pleasing to him.

This is the love which we are to imitate - not some cheap, superficial love, but a willing, purposeful, unconditional, sacrificial love. The love of a God-centred life is patterned after Christ’s love. Every deed of willing surrender to God, done out of love for God is well pleasing to him (cf. 2 Cor. 2:15-16). A sacrifice for others is a sweet smelling aroma to God (1 Jn. 3:16).

The injunction here is: “Live a God-centred life as your program for living.” The warning is…

B. Don’t Live A Self-Centred Life! (3-6)

A God-centred life is a life of purity, love, self-sacrifice. A self-centred life is a life of perversion, lust, self-indulgence. A self-centred life is the contrasting program for living to a God-centred life.

Notice the features of a self-centred life that goes unchecked…

1. A Self-Centred Life Is Defiled By Perversion (3-4)

A) A Self-Centred Life Is Perverted Sexually (3).

But fornication and every kind of uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you as is fitting for saints.

Fornication is unlawful, illicit sexual intercourse of all kinds – e.g. premarital sex, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality.

Do you know how much sexual perversion there is around us? We are bombarded with it in advertising, TV, newspapers etc. They sell cars with sex, food, exercise programs, and travel programs. This is an age of sexual addiction. Presidents are addicted to it and religious leaders fall into it.

Every kind of uncleanness means all impurities. Any uncleanness is the broadest coverage (every kind of evil), but it is usually sexual sin (πορνεια).2

Covetousness is greed of all kinds. In this context it probably has a sexual connotation3 just like the 10th commandment that warns against coveting your neighbour’s wife. 4 Here it probably refers to unrestrained sexual greed, the attitude that others exist for your own gratification.

Dont let it even be named among you as befits saints. Don’t let this kind of behaviour be known among you. Don’t let this sexual perversion be true of you. Don’t permit worldly lusts to induce you into self-indulgence. Don’t flirt with it. Don’t let sexual immorality be your program for living. Distance yourselves from it. After all, you are saints of God, holy ones who have been set apart by God. You are sanctified by the Spirit, dedicated to God. You are saints with far too high a calling for this kind of lustful, worldly, perverted, sexual living that we see around us today.

This kind of practice is never to be named among God’s holy people. Our lives should be of such sanctity that no one can point the finger at us. There should never be even a suspicion of this kind of conduct among us. It shouldn’t even be hinted at, and certainly never be true. Don’t make sexual sins a topic of casual conversation. To do so lessens the seriousness of them and can lead to fantasies about them. And unchecked fantasies often become reality.

A self-centred life is perverted sexually. And…

B) A Self-Centred Life Is Perverted Verbally (4)

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

Just as self-indulgent sexual perversion is not a fitting program for living among the saints of God, so self-indulgent verbal perversion is not fitting.

Filthiness refers to obscenities, everything that is contrary to purity. Anything that would cause a Christian who is living a holy life to be ashamed. In this context, filthiness is particularly obscenity of speech (Col. 3:8), vulgarity, profanity.

Foolish talking is silly talk. It’s the same word from which we get “moron” (i.e. words associated with fools) - the kind of words you would expect from drunkards and coarse people with no sensitivity to serious matters.

Coarse jesting means degrading comments and dirty jokes, jokes about shameful things, suggestive language, double meanings, which things are not fitting among saints. Making sexual matters a topic of joking is to strip them of their seriousness. When sex is reduced to a joke it generates an attitude of laxity toward it and even condones its practice. Those things are not appropriate for saints of God, but rather giving of thanks which is fitting among saints. Thanksgiving is the opposite of anything to do with self-indulgence. A self-centred person does not express himself or herself in terms of thankfulness. Thanksgiving to God is the expression of one who is satisfied with God’s provision and wants no more. In this context, rather than trying to satiate self-indulgent passions (whether through sexual practices or verbal expressions), we should acknowledge that God has given us all that we need and for that we give thanks.

A self-centred life is defiled by perversion. And…

2. A Self-Centred Life Is Doomed For Punishment (5-6)

Just as worldly lust induces self-indulgence, so worldly lust incites God’s judgement. The first aspect of God’s punishment is that…

A) Self-Centred Persons Are Excluded From God’s Kingdom (5)

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

These are the same people referred to in v. 3 - the sexually immoral, the unclean and greedy persons, who are idolaters. They are idolaters because they worship someone other than God. They worship themselves, feed on their own lusts, and are addicted to their sexuality. All these are excluded from the kingdom of Christ and God.5 They have no part in the present spiritual reality of the kingdom of Christ; no part in the future physical reality of the kingdom of God. They aren’t under the rule of God and Christ at all. Their deviant behaviour excludes them from the kingdom of God.

Not only will self-centred persons be excluded from the kingdom of God, but also…

B) Self-Centred Persons Are Condemned Under God’s Wrath (6)

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (6b)

Empty words are the same verbal perversions referred to in v. 4. - filthy and foolish talking, and coarse joking. Empty words are words devoid of truth and filled with error. Don’t be deceived by those who use obscenities, silly talking, coarse jesting. Don’t be deceived by those who claim there is no consequence for their sin. They speak empty words that are devoid of truth. Don’t be deceived by those who try to justify their immoral practices as if they are matters for amusement.

Because of these things the wrath of God falls on these children of disobedience. God’s wrath is coming and in principle has already come. God’s judgement upon the ungodly, though it is future, is so real and certain that it is as if it has already come upon them. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (Jn. 3:36). God…will render to each one according to his deeds to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil…For there is no partiality with God (Rom. 2:5-11).

Conclusions

Therefore, do not be partakers with them (7)

Don’t be drawn into their program of living. Rather than perversion, practice purity. Rather than lust, practice love. Rather than self-indulgence, practice self-sacrifice.

Don’t pursue a program of self-centredness or you may end up in a lifestyle of sexual, verbal, social, habitual, philosophical, even religious perversion.

Pursue a program for living that has God as its centre! That’s the thrust of our text: Christians living together in community need to live a God-centred life as our program for living. There is nothing like God-centredness to generate unity in the church where everyone has the same focus, same goal, same desire, same program and same purpose for living. There’s nothing like God’s love to generate unity in the church because a sacrificial love considers others’ needs above your own; you abandon your own agenda to help someone else.

Is this true about you? Is this the object of your life - to be godly, Christ-like, laying down yourself for others? If it is, then you’ll overcome lust and be filled with love; you’ll resist perversion and be known for purity; you’ll set aside self-indulgence and be self-sacrificial.

Let’s examine our own hearts right now. Ask yourself the question: Is your life a reflection of God’s purity and love or the world’s perversity and lust? In a moment of silence, review your own life in the light of this Scripture. Ask yourself, is sexuality a predominant part of your thinking and desires? Is filthy talking, silly jokes, and uncleanness a habit with you?

Program #2: Live As Light… Not Darkness (5:8-14)

How we live affects those we live with or near, whether at home, work, or school. How we live is determined by our “program for living.” The purity of our life is governed by our program for living.

To live a God-centred life means that we have no common ground with those who live self-centred lives because the children of God imitate God in his holiness and love, whereas the children of disobedience are defiled by perversion and doomed to punishment. Therefore, “don’t be partakers with them” (7); don’t share in their ungodly lifestyle; don’t be partners in their “disobedience”; don’t partake in their immorality (sexual and verbal).

In this second contrasting programs for living, the injunction is that Christians living together in community need to live as light not darkness.

A. Live As People Of Light (8-10)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (8a).

Darkness and light are not only realms but people, people who are not just surrounded by it but identified with it, governed by it; people who represent it in their persons and demonstrate it in their deeds.

People of light dwell in, possess, and transmit moral and spiritual light in the world. They are knowledgeable about spiritual truth (1:18) and they walk in holiness. People of darkness dwell in and embody moral and spiritual darkness in the world. They represent spiritual darkness, which is ignorance (4:18) and, in this context, immorality.

People of light are different from and separate from people of darkness. Once upon a time you were darkness (cf. 2:1-3, 11, 12; 4:14, 17). It doesn’t say “you were once in darkness” but that you were once darkness. You were once governed by spiritual, moral, and intellectual darkness; your minds were blinded (4:18) with unbelief by the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4); your hearts were hardened against the truth (4:18); your lusts were unchecked in sexual immorality and uncleanness (5:3).

But now you are light in the Lord. You have been transferred from the realm of darkness to the realm of light and you have been transformed in your thinking – renewed and enlightened with the truth about God in your conduct so that you walk in true righteousness and holiness (4:24). You are light because you are in the Lord – you belong to Christ. Now you belong to a new realm (of light) because you are in the Lord.

And because you are light, you actually transmit light. Light now radiates from you to others (at your work, school, neighbourhood etc.). You have embraced the Light that came into the world (Jn. 8:12) so that you yourselves are now the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).

Therefore (because you are light in the Lord) live as children of light (8b). Live in a way that reflects who you really are! And who are we? We are children of light - no longer children of wrath (2:3) or disobedience (2:2; 5:6) but children of light, because we are children of God and God is Light. So live in accordance with who you are. Let your practice be consistent with your position. Let your behaviour conform to your belief. Let your conduct comport with your character. You embraced the light of Christ so walk as children of the light. Think in accordance with the knowledge of the truth that you have. Let the knowledge of God and Christ flood your soul with light. Act according to God’s holy standards. Let righteousness and holiness mark your attitudes, words, and actions.

So, how do people of light live?

1. People Of Light Live To Produce Light (9)

They live to show to others who they really, for the fruit of the light (better manuscript reading) consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. People of light are people of goodness. They are people who do acts of kindness on behalf of others – the opposite of malice and uncleanness (4:31,19). People of light are people of righteousness. They demonstrate justice and uprightness in their lives. They show the righteous character of God in their dealings. People of light are people of truth. They practice integrity, reliability, trustworthiness. They speak truth with their neighbour – the opposite of lies, deceit, hypocrisy (4:14, 25; 5:6).

All of this fruit of light is the expression of God’s character. The “goodness” of God leads people to repentance (Rom. 2:4). The “truth” of God is expressed in Jesus Christ (4:21; Jn. 14:6). The “righteousness” of God is imputed to us through faith in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). This is what people should see when they look at us – the goodness of God, the truth of God, the righteousness of God. They should see the light of God shining from us in the darkness of this world, so that they turn to take another look at us, just as they might look at someone who is outstandingly well-dressed.

The effect of the Christian life lived out in difficult situations is often quite dramatic and forceful in its impact on the non-Christian. An article that appeared in Christianity Today (June 21, 1974) was about Christians in the Soviet Union. A former criminal, Kozlov, later a church leader, wrote of life in a Soviet prison: “Among the general despair, while prisoners like myself were cursing ourselves, the camp, the authorities; while we opened up our veins or our stomachs, or hanged ourselves; the Christians (often with sentences of 20 to 25 years) did not despair. One could see Christ reflected in their faces. Their pure, upright life, deep faith, and devotion to God, their gentleness and their wonderful manliness became a shining example of real life for thousands.” 6

So, people of light live to produce light. And…

2. People Of Light Live To Please God (10)

…discovering what is pleasing to the Lord.

When you walk as children of light walk, you produce the fruit of light in goodness, righteousness and truth, and in so doing you discover what is pleasing to the Lord. We discover what pleases the Lord by how we live. When we live as children of light ought to live, God is well-pleased. When we live as children of darkness live, God is not pleased. Do you want to know the will of God? Live as light, then you’ll discover what pleases God and you’ll live in the will of God.

The injunction is “Live as people of light.” The warning is...

B. Don’t Live As People Of Darkness (11-14)

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness (11)

It isn’t a matter of staying away from “people of darkness” but a matter of remaining separate from their unfruitful deeds.

1. People Of Light Can Have No Part In “Deeds Of Darkness” (11a)

People of darkness produce deeds but not fruit. Don’t confuse work with fruit. Works of darkness produce no fruit. They are sterile, futile, with no life in them. Hence, they are unfruitful. They don’t glorify God; they don’t please him. Unfruitful deeds spring from the realm of darkness – immorality, impurity, all uncleanness, greed, and filthy talk.

People of light can have no part with the deeds of darkness. Our allegiance is to the God who is Light. We cannot participate in the futile, self-serving works of disobedience. There are no shades of grey here. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (11a). You are either darkness or light. Your works are either fruitful or unfruitful. You are either a believer or an unbeliever. And your works prove it.

People of light have no part in the deeds of darkness. Rather…

2. People Of Light Expose The “Deeds Of Darkness” (11b-14)

Have no fellowship with them but rather expose them (11b). The answer is not to retreat from the world. We don’t seclude ourselves in an exclusive commune or sect where everybody thinks, looks, and speaks alike. Rather, we live in the world as those who are not of the world by refusing to join in their evil actions, habits, language etc. In so doing, we expose their evil deeds for what they are.

Talking about their evil deeds doesn’t expose them. In fact, it is shameful even to speak of those things that are done by them in secret (12). Talk won’t change them. It won’t overcome their evil deeds (1) because men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (Jn. 3:19); and (2) because those who practise evil hate the light and they do not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed (Jn. 3:20). Plato once said: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light.” 7

Talking about evil deeds doesn’t expose them and won’t change them, but it might defile you. Their secret deeds are so vile that it’s shameful to speak about them because they are morally and spiritually dangerous and defiling.

Today, things that we consider evil are often talked about openly and condoned. Newspapers, radio talk shows and TV programs discuss things that at one time would never have been broadcast because they would have been considered embarrassing, obnoxious, revolting. Even some advertisements are objectionable, revealing private matters. But now these things are publicized as ordinary items of discussion. Just listening to them defiles your mind and disturbs your spirit.

Talking about evil deeds of darkness doesn’t expose them but living as light exposes them. All things that are exposed by the light are made visible; for it is light that makes everything visible (13). The antidote for sin is not talk, it’s the light - the light of your life! The way to deal with sin is not to talk about it but to show it up, so that the people of darkness will see who and what they are and turn from their wicked ways (cf. Lk. 8:17; 2 Chron. 7:14).

Just as light exposes dust on furniture, so living as spiritual light exposes spiritual darkness. You expose the evil deeds of the ungodly by how you live. Your works are so fruitful and so different (morally, religiously, socially, intellectually, philosophically) that they shine like a searchlight on the unfruitful deeds of the ungodly.

Darkness never overcomes light; rather light always prevails. As your life reflects the light of Christ so the works of darkness are shown up for what they truly are. Your deeds of “goodness” expose their greed and self-centredness. Your deeds of “righteousness” expose their immorality and uncleanness. Your pure talk of “truth” exposes their filthy talk and coarse jokes. Light makes everything within its sphere visible. When exposed to the light, the deeds of darkness are made visible so that the people of darkness see the enormity of their sin.

So, by living as light we enable them to see the nature of their deeds and to respond to the light and become light themselves. You don’t do a wicked person any favour by leaving him or her in their wickedness as though it is alright. You don’t do a believer any favour by ignoring his or her sin. Divine love desires the highest good no matter what the cost.

Therefore, it is said, Awake you who sleep; arise from the dead; and Christ shall give you light (14). This is a call to those in darkness to come to the light – to be saved. I don’t know where this quote comes from. Perhaps it’s an adaptation of Isa. 60:1, Arise shine; for your light has come. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

Conclusions

This is the transforming effect of the light of the gospel. The gospel awakens sinners from their sleep in the darkness of sin. Like a spiritual Rip Van Winkle they sleep through God’s day of grace and will wake up when it is too late unless we wake them up! The gospel raises them from their condition of spiritual death. It summons them to repentance, to turn away from their sinful deeds of darkness. The gospel infuses them with the light of life and Christ will shine upon them. They will hear and understand the good news that God has provided a remedy for those who turn from darkness to his marvellous light.

Two Indians who had been watching a lighthouse being built came over to see it open on the big day. It was all set up with the lights and the bell and the horn; but the day it was due to open, the worst fog of all fogs came in. One Indian said to the other, Light shine, bell ring, horn blow, but fog come in just the same. We’ve never had more lights shining, and bells ringing, and horns blowing in the church than we have today. And we’ve never had more fog! 8 We are the spiritual light of the world. If we don’t shine in the foggy darkness, who will?

Remember: Christians living together in community need to live as light not darkness.

A little girl came home from Sunday school, where she had been taught the verse, Let you light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16). She asked her mother, when she repeated the verse, what it meant. Her mom said, Well, it means that when you are good and kind and thoughtful and obedient, you are letting Christs light shine in your life before all who know you.

The very next Sunday school, the little girl got in a bit of a fracas with another student and created somewhat of an uproar, to such an extent that the Sunday school teacher had to go and find her mother to get her settled down a bit in the class. Her mother was concerned when she got to the classroom and said, Sweetie, dont you remember about letting your light shine for the Lord before men? The girl blurted out, Mom, I have blowed myself out. 9 Many of us have done just that. In our relationship to Christ, our light has gone out. Don’t blow yourself out!

All of us who are believers have been awakened from spiritual death. The light of Christ has shone into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Now it’s our responsibility to share the light with others so that their wicked deeds are exposed, they wake up from their spiritual sleep, repent of their sins, and receive the life-producing light of Christ.

Here’s the question: Are we attractive Christians? Do we give people the impression that the most marvellous thing in the world is to be a Christian, to have the light of life?

Program #3: Live Carefully… Not Recklessly (5:15-21)

We are studying “Living Together in Community” (Eph. 4:1-6:20). One aspect of living together in community is “pursuing purity together” - the life of the “new man” in contrast to the life of the “old”. This is a life that is based on certain contrasting principles – (1) “Don’t live like the ungodly in corruption that stems from deceit” (Eph. 4:17-19); (2) Live like Jesus in purity that stems from the truth” (Eph. 4:20-24). This is a life that is based on certain contrasting practices – (1) “Speaking truth not lies” (Eph. 4:25); (2) “Exercising self-control not anger” (Eph. 4:26-27); (3) “Working not stealing” (Eph. 4:28); (4) “Speaking constructively not destructively” (Eph. 4:29-30); and (5) “Showing kindness not animosity” (Eph. 4:31-32).

It is also a life that is based on certain contrasting programs – program #1, “Live a God-centred life not self-centred” (5:1-7); program #2, “Live as light not darkness” (5:8-14). Now, Program #3: “Live carefully not recklessly” (5:15-21).

A. Be Careful To Live Wisely… Not Foolishly (5:15-17)

Therefore, watch that you live / walk carefully (15a). The life of the new man is a careful (disciplined) life. It’s careful because the new man walks as a child of the light, exposing the works of darkness and you can only do this if you take care. If you don’t take care, you’ll become like the children of disobedience and you’ll be drawn into their unfruitful works of darkness.

Great care is the hallmark of those who are wise not foolish: See that you live carefully, not as unwise but as wise (15b). Unwise believers live recklessly. They’re unconcerned about the consequences of their lives, about the holiness of God, about eternal values. They’re easily persuaded by others and compromise the gospel (Gal. 3:1). They don’t have sound discernment, fall into harmful habits (1 Tim. 6:8), and engage in foolish arguments (2 Tim. 2:23).

The winter 1991 issue of the University of Pacific Review offers a chilling description of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. There were two electrical engineers in the control room that night, and the best thing that could be said for what they were doing is they were “playing around” with the machine. They were performing what the Soviets later described as an unauthorized experiment. They were trying to see how long a turbine would “free wheel” when they took the power off it.

Taking the power off that kind of nuclear reactor is a difficult, dangerous thing to do because those reactors are very unstable in their lower ranges. In order to get the reactor down to that kind of power, where they could perform the test they were interested in performing, they had to manually override six separate computer-driven alarm systems. One by one the computers would come up and say, “Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!” And one by one, rather than shutting off the experiment, they shut off the alarms and kept going.

You know the results: nuclear fallout that was recorded all around the world, from the largest industrial accident ever to occur in the world. Those engineers were not just unwise, they were reckless. 10

Wise believers, on the other hand, live carefully. They are endowed with spiritual and practical wisdom. They apply themselves to good things, not evil (Rom. 16:19). They take care in their service for the Lord (1 Cor. 3:10), make sound judgements on difficult issues (1 Cor. 6:5), do their good works in meekness (James 3:13). They don’t just have knowledge, they have skill in living - the skill to perceive things accurately (for what they are) and reflect that in their practice.

1. Live Wisely In The Way You Use Your Time (16)

Redeeming the time because the days are evil (16).

Redeeming the time (16a) means making the most of the opportunities. Wise people buy back time like a commodity. This expression seems like an oxymoron. How can you buy back time? Once it’s gone, it’s gone – it’s like water spilled on the ground. But we can buy back time in two senses:

1. Using it wisely by getting the maximum use out of it; not wasting it; using the opportunities God gives us to the best advantage; having a sense of urgency about what we do because “now is the accepted time…” (2 Cor. 6:2); producing good works for God’s glory (2:10; Gal. 6:10).

2. Focusing on eternity by living out the life of the age to come so that we will have fruit in eternity from our labours; working on things that have eternal consequences so that the passage of time doesn’t erase their value; shining as lights and exposing the evil deeds of darkness so that they awake and turn from their darkness to God’s marvellous light.

We are to redeem the time because the days are evil (16b). We are living in the “last days” (2 Tim. 3:1) and because they are the last days they are precarious, few, and short. So use them prudently. These days are perilous times…in which people are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim. 3:1). In the last days scoffers will come…walking according to their own lusts and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). The days are “evil” because the prince of the power of the air rules (2:2) and the age itself is evil (Gal. 1:4).

How do you use your time? Do you have a sense of urgency and the shortness of time? Or, do you fritter time away on useless past-times? When you give an account of your time to God, what will you say? What will you show for all the time He gave you?

So, live wisely in the way you use your time…and…

2. Live Wisely In Understanding God’s Will (17)

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Do not be foolish in the light of these evil days when the danger is so great, when the wickedness so appalling, when the darkness is so thick and the need for spiritual light so demanding, when the opportunities for Christ are so great.

Don’t act like fools. Fools are ignorant. They are not ignorant in the sense of mental capacity. Rather, they are morally ignorant in their innermost being; they are full of self, not God. The fool has said in his heart: No God’” (Ps. 14:1). Fools live as though God does not exist. They waste their time by living as though “now” is all there is. They ignore the oppressive forces of evil. The fool has no recognition of God’s reality in his life. God doesn’t enter into his thinking nor his actions. God isn’t a factor at all for him.

Don’t be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. It doesn’t say to search for God’s will but simply to understand it. God’s will is not a secret – it has been revealed. All we need to do is apprehend it. So, recognize the days we live in and discern the Lord’s will for these times. Let God’s revealed will mould your actions, form your thoughts, substantiate your beliefs.

Elizabeth Elliot said: “The will of God is not something you add to your life. It’s a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world.” 11

Wise people are careful to live according to God’s will. Their lives are informed by an understanding of the will of the Lord and they conduct themselves accordingly. Wise people are careful to understand what the will of the Lord is. They understand it in such a way that it governs their actions. It isn’t just head knowledge but it’s reflected in their manner of life. They are filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Col. 1:9). They have learned the truth as in Jesus (4:21).

What is the Lord’s will? It’s the Lord’s will (1) that we be “delivered from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4); (2) that we be adopted as “children by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5); (3) that we know the “mystery of his will” concerning future things (1:9-10); (4) that we live lives that are worthy of the Lord and which please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened by his power (Col. 1:10-11); (5) that we be sanctified, abstaining from sexual immorality, knowing how to control our body in sanctification and honour, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles, who do not know God (1 Thess. 4:3-5, 7); and (6) that we do good so as to silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (1 Pet. 2:15).

You know what the Lord’s will is, so just do it! (as the Nike ad puts it). Don’t spend your whole life desperately trying to figure it out like a puzzle. Study it in God’s Word and just do it. And if you do it, you’ll please God as Enoch did. That’s doing God’s will.

First, be careful to live wisely not foolishly. Secondly…

B. Be Careful To Be Filled With The Spirit… Not Wine (18-21)

Don’t get drunk with wine in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit. (18)

1. Drunk People Live Foolishly (18a)

Drunkenness is a prime characteristic of the “darkness.” But you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night (1 Thess. 5:5-7).

Drunkenness is reckless living, a quality of “darkness” that leads to debauchery and wickedness. It’s the way of life of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:13) – wasteful and riotous living; the indulgence of one’s sensual appetites; an addiction to lustful pleasure; fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness; filthiness and foolish talking and coarse jesting (5:3-4). It’s the unfruitful deeds of darkness – lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (1 Pet. 4:4). It’s a giving over to all uncleanness and greediness (4:19), foolish talking and coarse jesting (5:3).

Sobriety, on the other hand, is careful living. It’s a quality of “light.” Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Rom. 13:13-14).

Reckless people desperately search for happiness in all the wrong places. They try to blot out the cares and worries of life through drunkenness or drugs or sex etc. None of these are a remedy, just a mask. Drunkenness gives temporary happiness, temporary forgetfulness, temporary relief from reality. But it soon fades and the cycle starts all over again. Everything about a drunk person indicates that he is under the influence of a power other than his own, that he is out of control in the way he walks, talks, looks, and thinks.

Drunkenness is the devil’s substitute for the real thing. That’s the way the devil works, offering look-alikes that aren’t real. There are lots of fakes around. You can buy fake designer clothes and fake jewellery. Drunkenness and drugs are fakes that cheat you into thinking you have no more problems, that life is happy and all is well until it wears off. Then the devil is there again offering you more. The devil is a great big pusher, a dope dealer, offering you instant escape, instant high, but it’s all an illusion. Don’t fall for the devil’s lie. Don’t fall into his trap of instant anything – it doesn’t last and the end is worse than the beginning. Alcohol is a powerful drug. If you use it you’re playing with fire. Not only may you harm yourself but your use of it may harm someone else. That’s why Paul advises abstinence (Rom. 14:21).

Drunk people live foolishly, but…

2. Spirit-Filled People Live Carefully (18b)

Don’t be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit. The way we live is a matter of who is in control of our lives. The reckless person is controlled by his passions, which are sometimes manifested in drunkenness. The careful person is controlled by the Spirit which is manifested in our relationship to God and our relationship to one another.

This is a contrast between alcoholic and spiritual intoxication. Both are the result of coming under the control of an external power. The drunk person lives recklessly, controlled by the power of wine. But the Spirit-filled person lives carefully, controlled by the power of the Spirit.

Spirit-filled people don’t search for happiness because they have it. They don’t need a fake substitute, they have the real thing. They aren’t drunk, they’re filled. They aren’t under the influence of wine but the influence of the Spirit. They aren’t depressed (alcohol is a depressant) but stimulated. The Spirit of God fills them with a joy and peace that passes all understanding. Their life overflows with it. Everything about them indicates that they are under an authority more powerful than themselves, in the way they walk, talk, look, and think.

Spirit-filled people are careful to give glory to God. They have “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). They know they are sealed by the Spirit for time and eternity. They know that the Spirit guarantees them the completion of their redemption (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30).

When you’re filled with the Spirit your brain isn’t dull, your speech isn’t impaired, your conduct isn’t lewd. Rather, your perception of spiritual things is sharpened, your understanding of the will of God is opened, your appreciation of the Word of God is heightened, your overall well-being is enhanced, your security is complete in Christ, your face beams with the love of God, and your life radiates the glory of God.

So, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? What does it look like?

First, what the filling of the Spirit is not. It is not some sort of dramatic phenomenon like falling to the ground, twitching, making strange noises; not a second blessing subsequent to conversion; not a temporary experience of ecstatic speech or visions; not a progressive process by which we gradually receive more of Him until we are full of Him (all believers possess him in fullness); not the same as being “indwelled by the Spirit” (all believers are indwelled at the moment of salvation, cf. Rom. 8:9); not the same as the baptism of the Spirit (all believers are baptized by the Spirit at the moment of conversion when we become part of the body of Christ, cf. 1 Cor. 12:13); not the same as being sealed with the Spirit (this is also an accomplished fact, cf. 1:13). Nowhere are believers commanded to be indwelled, baptized, or sealed with the Spirit. The only command is to be filled with the Spirit.

Second, what the filling of the Spirit is. Grammatically, the phrase be filled with the Spirit tells us that:

(1) It is imperative – a command, an obligation, not optional.

(2) It is plural – addressed to the whole church, includes us all.

(3) It is passive – it is the Holy Spirit who fills us. We must allow him to do that (hence, the imperative: “Let yourself be filled...”) so that nothing hinders him from filling us. We can hinder that filling if we are “grieving” or “quenching” the Spirit in our lives.

(4) It is present continuous (not progressive) – “Keep on being filled.”

We need to make three distinctions (1) between the sealing (baptism, indwelling) of the Spirit, (2) the filling of the Spirit, and (3) the anointing of the Spirit.

(1) The baptism (or, sealing / indwelling) of the Spirit represents our spiritual position in Christ. This takes place once at our conversion (Eph. 1:13; 1 Cor. 1:22; 1 Cor. 12:13).

(2) The filling of / with the Spirit represents our spiritual condition in Christ. The filling with the Spirit is a continuous experience of being controlled by the Spirit. This is a function of living according to the new birth. This means obedience to, submission to, dependence on, and allegiance to the Holy Spirit in everyday living. In other words, it is living according to the principles, practices, and programs of the new man.

(3) The anointing by the Spirit represents our spiritual vocation in Christ. The anointing by the Spirit is the empowering and gifting of / by the Spirit for ministry (Acts. 1:8).

Spirit-filled people are controlled by the Holy Spirit. They live in the power of the Spirit. They are sensitive to the operation of the Spirit. They surrender moment by moment to the Spirit. Just as some people are filled with sorrow, or fear, or anger and that emotion takes control of their life, so we are to be so consumed by the Holy Spirit that he has control of our lives. When he fills us, we are not under our own control but his, dominated by him, overpowered, mastered by him.

To be filled with the Spirit means to manifest what we truly are - people who have been sealed with the Spirit - and we manifest that sealing by letting him fill us so that it is evident who controls our lives. The disciples were filled with the Spirit at Pentecost so that everyone knew it. When He fills us, we live in the fullness of his presence and his power. He enables us to live in the new man, to be God-centred, to be light, to live carefully using our time wisely (15-16), to understand what the will of the Lord is (17), to worship God (19-20), and to live together in mutual submission (21).

John MacArthur has said that the Christian who is filled with the Spirit is like a glove. A glove without a hand in it is powerless, useless. A glove works only as the hand controls and uses it. A glove’s only work is the hand’s work. It can’t complete any tasks without the hand nor can the glove take any credit or boast about what it does. In the same way, a Christian who is not filled with the Spirit can accomplish no more than a glove that is not filled with a hand. Anything done without the Spirit is of no value. 12

To be filled with the Spirit, you must…

(1) Confess your sins.

(2) Submit your will and thought – transformed by a renewed mind.

(3) Die to self – mortify the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 24).

(4) Surrender all you have and are – present your body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1)

(5) Be God-centred not self-centred.

(6) Be light not darkness.

(7) Be careful how you live not reckless.

(8) Live according to the new man not the old.

(9) Live in the consciousness of the personal presence of the Lord, letting his life dominate yours

(10) Fill yourself with the Word of God so that his thoughts are your thoughts, his standards your standards, his holiness your holiness.

(11) Keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), taking each step of your life under his control - every thought, every decision.

(12) Manifest the fruit of the Spirit which He produces in you - love, joy, peace etc. (Gal. 5:22-23).

(13) Expunge anything in your life that “grieves” the Spirit.

(14) Do not permit anything in your life that “quenches” the Spirit.

In so doing, you allow the Spirit to do his work in you.

Spirit-filled living is most fully realized in community when we are together, dwelling together in unity. Spirit-filled living has a direct impact on, and finds its fulfillment in, the unity of the church.

Note the characteristics of Spirit-filled people in community with one another…

A) Spirit-Filled People Edify One Another In Worship

… speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (19a).

How do we edify one another in our corporate worship?

i) We derive a sense of identity from it because it is so contrastive to the activities of the world. They do not engage in spontaneous, collective worship (in prayer, singing, and preaching as we do).

ii) We derive our cohesion from it because it draws us together in close association with one another in object and desire.

iii) We derive pleasure from it because we love to sing to God and to each other. Perhaps that’s why special music has such an attraction to us - it edifies us as someone sings to us.

iv) We are instructed, encouraged, edified, and have fellowship together when we address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They build us up, encourage us, exhort us, remind us who we were and where we have come from, admonish us to live well-pleasing to the Lord, teach us the truth of God’s Word.

What a contrast to the way the ungodly address one another! They engage in coarse speech, foolish talk. But believers communicate with one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In earlier days of the church’s history, they met together to recite hymns to each other much as we do responsive readings. While there is probably little differentiation between them, these forms of address probably have meanings similar to those we use today.

  • Psalms probably refers to the O. T. Psalms, which were accompanied by instruments (we sing many Psalms today in our praise songs).
  • Hymns talk about God and Christian doctrines and practices.
  • Spiritual songs direct praise to God.

Spirit-filled people edify one another in worship and…

B) Spirit-Filled People Glorify The Lord In Worship

… singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (19b).

The source of our singing and music is the heart. The heart denotes sincerity, authenticity, what comes from within. This is the source of all true worship, the internal praise of the heart not the external demonstration of talent.

God looks on the heart so no matter how musical you may be there is no value unless it comes from the heart; and no matter how unmusical you may be God values what comes from your heart. So even if you can’t hold a tune in a bucket, you can make melody in your heart to the Lord.

Spirit-filled Christians have a song of joy in their hearts and Spirit-filled public worship is a celebration of that joy in God and a proclamation of that joy to God. The joy that springs from a relationship with God wells up in our hearts and is precious to God. Out of the abundance of the heart our mouths speak. We sing from our hearts (not our lips) the song that is in our hearts.

Barbara McKeever, in Christian Reader, writes: “In the middle of the soloist’s number at church, my young grandson Chandler tugged on my sleeve and whispered, “She can’t sing very well, can she?” Knowing the woman had a deep love for the Lord, I said, “Chandler, she sings from her heart. That’s what makes it good.” He nodded thoughtfully. Several days later as he and I were singing along with the car radio, Chandler stopped and said, “Nana, you sing from your heart, don’t you?” 13

The source of our singing and music is our heart and the object of our singing and music is the Lord. We sing and make music not to draw attention to ourselves but to the Lord; not for our self-aggrandizement but for His exaltation.

Spirit-filled people edify one another, worship with one another and…

C) Spirit-Filled People Give Thanks With One Another

… giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (20)

Spirit-filled people are thankful people. Those who grumble and complain are not filled with the Spirit. That’s what characterized the Israelites. They murmured against the Lord and against Moses.

Spirit-filled people give thanks continually. They give thanks always, abounding in thanksgiving (Col. 2:7). They delight in giving thanks. It is habitual and unceasing. Thankfulness is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The ungodly do not give thanks (Rom. 1:21).

Spirit-filled people give thanks concerning all things. Concerning all things is probably a better translation than “for all things.” There are some things we cannot give thanks for and should not. We do not give thanks for acts of wickedness but we can give thanks to God for his sovereignty over these evil acts. We can give thanks to God for his purposes in our bad circumstances in which he deepens our Christian maturity, draws us nearer to himself, and teaches us to trust him. In those circumstances we see him bring good out of evil. We give thanks for life, breath, friends, salvation, hope, God’s love, and his care even in hard times because the Spirit controls them.

Spirit-filled people give thanks to God the Father (1) because He is the Giver of every good and every perfect gift (Jas. 1:17); (2) because of his indescribable gift (2 Cor. 9:15); (3) because of his salvation, the gift of God (2:8); (4) because he gives us the victory, Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57); (5) because it is part of worship: Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15).

In 1636, during the Thirty Years War (one of the worst wars in the history of mankind in terms of sheer number of deaths, epidemics, and the economic results) there was a godly pastor whose name was Martin Rinkert. In a single year, this pastor buried 5,000 people in his parish – about 15 a day. He lived with the worst that life could do. But if you look in your hymnal, you’ll find that in the middle of that time, he wrote a table grace for children - our thanksgiving hymn: Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices. Who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices.

If I had spent the year holding 5,000 funerals of the people I served, could I write for my children a song of thanksgiving to God? It’s an unusual thing that in history many who have the least to thank God about thank him the most.

Spirit filled people give thanks to God the Father and Spirit-filled people give thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s in his name because he is the means of access to God (Eph. 2:18). No one comes to the Father but by me (Jn. 14:6). There is one God and one mediator… (1 Tim. 2:5). It’s in his name because of his authority and power. Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved(Acts 4:12). Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:13).

Spirit-filled people edify one another, worship with one another, give thanks with one another. And lastly…

D) Spirit-Filled People Submit To One Another

…submitting to one another in the fear of Christ (21)

Spirit-filled people are meek, gentle, submissive. They aren’t haughty, aggressive, self-assertive, proud, but Spirit-filled people have a spirit of humility and obedience. This does not imply that we must submit to others unconditionally. Rather, we submit to one another when the wishes of others and our response is in line with reverence for Christ. The fullness of the Spirit leads to mutual submission, not to individuality, pride, or disunity (cf. 1 Cor. 14:26-33; Phil. 2:1-5).

Spirit-filled people submit to one another in the fear of Christ because their mutual submission is out of reverence for Christ reflecting his humility in themselves.

Conclusions

This is the third contrasting program for living: “Live Carefully Not Recklessly”. Reckless living is exemplified by drunkenness. Careful living is exemplified by being Spirit-filled. When we are filled with the Spirit, we will edify one another and worship God together with joy and music that springs from our hearts. When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be thankful concerning all things that are consistent with the Fatherhood of God and the authority and power of Jesus’ name. When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be submissive to one another as unto the Lord in the fear of Christ. The filling of the Spirit is manifested in our relationships to each other and to God.

Spirit-filled people are people who live their lives carefully. They are careful to imitate God, to walk in love, to abstain from evil, to produce goodness, righteousness, and truth (and thus to discover what pleases God), to expose the evil deeds of the people of darkness (calling them to repentance), to use their time wisely, and to live in the full understanding of the will of the Lord.

Does that describe your life? Are you careful about how you use your time? Are you careful about understanding the revealed will of the Lord? Are you careful to be filled with the Spirit? If your life is not Spirit-filled then what is it filled with? I urge you to examine your life under the microscope of God’s Word and put things right if they are out of balance. The world is full of attractions to use up your time and attention. Satan doesn’t want you to have time for God or to understand his will. Only if you’re filled with the Spirit will you stand up and stand out for God as salt and light in a dark and thirsty world.

The challenge from this text today is this: Is the filling of the Spirit evident in your life? When others look at you, talk to you, and listen to you, do they see and hear the Holy Spirit speaking and acting through you? Or, are you stifling the work of the Holy Spirit?

Does the Holy Spirit have his way in your life, in your attitude to God and to other people? Or, are you permitting things in your life which grieve the Holy Spirit? Is your attitude to God marked by thankfulness or do you regularly complain about your lot in life? Is your relationship to others characterized by mutual encouragement and mutual submission or are you constantly pushing for your own way?

What is your response to this passage going to be? Will you forget it or will you confess anything that would hinder the filling of the Holy Spirit in your life, beseeching God that he would fill you with his Holy Spirit to his glory and the blessing of his people.


1 Imitators of God (see Matt. 5:43-48; Lk. 6:35; 1 Jn. 4:10-11). Imitators of Christ (see Jn. 13:34; 15:12; Rom. 15:2,3,7; 2 Cor. 8:7-9; Phil. 2:3-8; Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:21-24; 1 Jn. 3:16).

2 See 1 Thess. 4:3, 7; Gal. 5:19; 2 Cor. 12:21; Col. 3:5

3 See 1 Thess. 4:6

4 Stott, 192.

5 “Kingdom of Christ” = “kingdom of God” because (1) Christ is God; and (2) the kingdom of Christ is the same entity as the kingdom of God.

6 “Witnessing in a Soviet Prison,” Christianity Today, June 21, 1974.

7 Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 2.

8 Vance Havner in Who Said That?: More than 2,500 Usable Quotes and Illustrations

By George Sweeting.

9 W. Frank Harrington, “The Love That Brought Him,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 51.

10 Tom Trip, “A Deadly Game at Chernobyl”, Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

11 Inspiring Quotations #1024.

12 John MacArthur, Ephesians, 250

13 Barbara McKeever, Christian Reader, “Kids of the Kingdom”.

Related Topics: Christian Life

6. Relating Together In Harmony, Pt. 1: The Harmony Of Wives And Husbands (5:22-33)

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Introduction

Unity in the church depends on harmony in all our relationships – marriage, family, employment etc. Your relationships outside the church affect the unity in the church. You can’t be one person through the week and someone else on Sundays. You can’t be one person in your marriage and another person at church. You can’t be one person with your family and another person at church. You can’t be one person at your work and another person at the church. Many people try to live two different lives. They let on that they are one person (that what you see is what you get) but it’s obvious that they’re living two lives. Christianity isn’t something that we just display on Sundays. Doctrine and duty go together; belief and behaviour; principles and practices.

You can’t be a Spirit-filled person on Sundays only. You don’t have that option. The Holy Spirit doesn’t work that way. He isn’t someone we invite to control our lives only one day a week. You can’t rent him on a daily rental basis. When you are truly filled with the Spirit it shows every day of your life.

If you’re filled with the Spirit, you’ll live in harmonious relationships both in the church and outside the church. Unity in the church is dependent upon unity at home, work, school etc. Harmony at home is vital to harmony in the church.

The first harmonious relationship we’re talking about in this article is marriage. Marriage relationships have a tremendous impact on the church. As marriages in the church go, so goes the church. Remember: “Unity in the church depends on harmony in all our relationships.”

First, let’s look at the relationship of wives to their husbands…

I. Spirit-Filled Wives Submit To Their Husbands (22a)

The demand that Spirit-filled people be mutually submissive (21) leads to the exhortation for wives to submit themselves to their husbands. Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord (22a).

Submission is a general admonition to all Christians: Obey those who have the rule over you and be submissive (Heb. 13:17). Likewise you younger people submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed in humility (1 Pet.5:5). We must submit to every ordinance of man for the Lords sake, whether to the king as supreme or to governors (1 Pet. 2:13-14).

But since the Fall submission doesn’t come naturally. God said to Eve, Your desire shall be toward your husband (Gen. 3:16). What does this mean? The same expression is used in the next chapter about Cain, concerning sin’s desire for Cain: Sin lies at the door. And its desire is toward you (4:7). In both these cases, this expression is followed by “but…”. As to Eve: …but he (your husband) shall rule over you and as to Cain: …but you shall rule over it (i.e. sin). In both cases, the desire of one party (Eve and sin) was to dominate the other (Adam and Cain). In Cain’s case, God instructs him to take responsibility and overcome sin’s desire to control him. In Eve’s case, her desire would not be fulfilled. In fact, the opposite would happen - Adam would rule over her in accordance with God’s design for the marriage relationship. Thus began the history of the battle for control in marriages.

It isn’t only wives for whom submission is a challenge. It’s true of us all. Submission to authority isn’t popular today; contemporary philosophy is one of permissiveness, freedom. This is an age of liberation, some of which is good and some bad.

As Christians, what should our attitude be to this?

1. We welcome the liberation of those who have been oppressed - women who have been exploited; children who have been abused; ethnic groups who have been enslaved, ridiculed, oppressed; workers whose work conditions were deplorable.

2. We affirm the unity of believers in the body of Christ, in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free. Barriers of sex, age, race, and rank have been abolished.

3. We affirm the dignity of women, children, employees, minorities.

4. We affirm the equality before God of all human beings regardless of race, rank, class, sex, or age, because we are all made in his image.

But none of this negates the admonition to submission!

1. What, Then, Is The Nature Of This Submission?

Submission is not a matter of inferiority – there is no suggestion of that. Rather, husband’s are to give honour (1 Pet. 3:7) to their wives, who are equal to their husbands by creation and redemption. This appeal for submission is given within the context of that equality - equality in relationship but distinction in function.

Thus, the nature of a wife’s submission is to be a voluntary yielding. That’s undoubtedly why the verb “submit” is in the middle voice - literally, “place yourself in submission,” submit yourselves (22a). In other words, Paul is saying to wives, Submit voluntarily because you want to, not because you have to. Submission isn’t a matter of displaying certain attitudes and actions externally, while at the same time rebelling internally. Paul is saying, “Previously, you were forced into submission. But now, as Christians, you have the voluntary choice to submit, an act of your will rather than a legal requirement.” Paul was after a heart attitude, a spirit of humility by choice, not coercion. Paul wanted women to exercise their free choice to submit to their husbands because they have submitted to Christ.

Richard Foster says, (Paul) made decision makers out of those who were forbidden to make decisions. What an incredible opportunity for the Christian wife in Paul’s time. Submission isn’t something imposed on wives but something they do willingly. There is no thought here of forced submission but free, voluntary submission.

But, notice that submission does have its limitations. The submission of wives is limited by the phrase, to your own husband (22b). This limits your submission. It is not to all men. Every relationship between a woman and a man is not one of submission and headship, but within marriage the woman is to submit to the leadership of her husband.1

The submission of wives is also limited by the phrase, as to the Lord (22c). To submit as to the Lord is:

1. To submit to your husband in the same way that you do to the Lord.

2. To recognize that the Lord has invested certain authority in him and that behind the husband is the Lord. Therefore, to submit to your husband is to submit to the Lord and, by implication, to not submit to your husband is to not submit to the Lord. Instead, it would be an act of rebellion against the Lord.

3. To submit out of obedience to the Lord. That’s a condition of submission. If your husband misuses his delegated authority (by commanding what God forbids or forbidding what God commands), then you cannot submit to it. If there is a conflict of interest, our primary obedience is to God rather than men.

The nature, then, of a wife’s submission to her husband is voluntary. But...

2. What Is The Basis For This Submission?

…because, the husband is the head of the wife (23a). Husbands and wives are equal personally. Both were created in God’s likeness. Hence, both equally bear his image. They were both equally given the position of vice-regents of God’s creation. But they are not identical functionally. A biblical perspective holds simultaneously the equality of men and women in their persons and a distinction in their functions. We sometimes call this distinction in the functions of men and woman a “complementary” relationship in order to stress their equality as persons and not any sense of inferiority.

Eve was given to Adam to complement him, to be his helper, someone who was meet for him.

Submission presupposes “headship”. The basis for the wife’s submission is the husband’s headship, which comes from God. That’s why she is to submit to it because she recognizes the divine order.

What is “headship”? Some argue that it means “head” in the sense of “source” (i.e. the “head” of a river, its source) but that makes no sense. “Head” implies authority, responsibility, care, protection, leadership. All these adjectives describe Christ’s headship over the church.

God’s order of headship is a principle in Scripture - man over woman; Christ over man; and God over Christ (1 Cor. 11:1ff; 1 Tim. 2:13). This principle of man over woman is based on the creation account:

1. The order of our creation. Man was created first; then the woman. The principle of headship is not the consequence of the Fall but the order of creation (Gen. 2; 1 Tim. 2:13; 1 Cor. 11:12).

2. The mode of creation. Woman was made from man, not vice-versa (1 Cor. 11:8).

3. The purpose of the woman’s creation. Woman was created for the man (to help him), not vice versa (1 Cor. 11:9). But also notice …

4. The man is produced from the women. Male headship does not imply independence - without women we (men) wouldn’t exist. This is the balancing factor in the equation of headship. Though the original man was not made from a woman (in the same way that the woman was made from the man), nevertheless, all subsequent men come into being “through” the woman. Thus, men and women are interdependent (see 1 Cor. 11:11-12).

3. What Is The Pattern For This Marital Relationship?

The husband is the head of the wife just as Christ also is head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body (23b). The husband is the head of the wife in the same way that Christ is the head of the church, his body (of which he is the Saviour). He redeemed the church with his own blood - He is its Saviour. And the church stands, therefore, in subservience to him. He is its head by virtue of redemption and all that redemption implies.

Christ’s headship of the body, then, expresses: (1) his self-sacrifice not self-indulgence; (2) protection not oppression; (3) nurture not neglect. Similarly, a husband’s headship of his wife is not domination but leadership, protection, provision, responsibility, care.

How should a husband’s authority be used, therefore? 2 Never selfishly but always for the benefit of those for whom it was given. Husbands are not being told here to exercise their authority, to be authoritarians. Rather they are being warned against its improper use. They are being exhorted to exercise their God-given headship and authority properly and sensitively, to love their wives and care for them. What they are being urged to do is to give expression to the primary aspect of their relationship to their wives – viz. love and respect for them. Authority does not grant a licence for oppression, domination, or cruelty. It does not give the husband license to rule insensitively. He is not to lord it over his wife.

4. What Is The Conclusion Of The Matter?

The point has been stated, the nature of submission explained, the reasons given, and the pattern established. And the conclusion is this: Wives should submit to their husbands in the same way that the church submits to Christ. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything (24).

Conversely, we could conclude that if the husband exercises his headship in the same way and with the same objectives as Christ expressed and exercises His headship over the church, then the wife’s submission to her husband will reflect the submission of the church to Christ, not demeaning or stifling, not mindless subservience, not the submission of a scared puppy, but rather, a voluntary, joyful partnership in which they can act and express themselves in perfect freedom, while gratefully accepting their husband’s headship.

And it encompasses all aspects of life: it’s in everything. The wife’s submission to her husband is not partial but complete. You do not submit only when your husband’s wishes coincide with yours, but you submit in everything.

Conclusions

When the husband’s headship imitates Christ’s headship, then the wife’s submission to him is free and fulfilling. The argument here is concise, clear, and unequivocal. Without this order in marriage there would be chaos. And that’s exactly what you’ve got in many marriages today – chaos; the constant striving of one party to dominate the other; the wife striving for control over her husband and the husband striving to dominate his wife like a tyrant. I believe that in good marriages, headship and submission are never an issue. It never comes up.

Submission produces unity in the church and at home. God wants the church to live together in unity and he wants husbands and wives to function together in unity, not as two autonomous individuals. There is to be a sharing of thought and action - wives are to share their desires, thoughts, actions with their husbands (as they with their wives). But, the point is, that she must be willing to submit to his leadership in everything.

That’s the challenge of the text to wives and to husbands. If your home is not characterized by harmony in your marital relationship, start to correct it now by changing your attitudes and actions. It starts with the husband. You must be the kind of husband God wants you to be - not a dictator or controller but a lover, provider, protector, friend; a reflector of the nature and character of Christ in your home. And if that is what you are, your wife will gladly be your lover, friend, supporter, defender, and cheer leader.

So, we have noticed firstly that Spirit-filled wives submit to their husbands. Secondly…

II. Spirit-Filled Husbands Love Their Wives (5:25-33)

We just discussed the relationship of wives to their husbands, now the relationship of husbands to their wives. God’s pattern for a harmonious marriage is a Spirit-filled wife who voluntarily and joyfully submits to her husband and a Spirit-filled husband who willingly and gladly cares for and treasures his wife.

After telling wives to submit to their husbands, you might expect Paul to tell husbands to “rule” their wives (especially if ruling were to be the outstanding characteristic of the husband). Instead he says: Husbands love your wives (25a).

Why does he say this? For the same reason that he told wives to “submit” to their husbands – namely, because it isn’t natural. Again, the Genesis account supports this. Sin has corrupted the relationship of husband and wife so that the wife wants to dominate her husband rather than submit and the husband wants to dominate his wife rather than love her.

Sadly, so many husbands love other things more than their wives – golfing, skiing, football, baseball, work, hobbies, cars etc. Some husbands don’t show much interest in their wives. They never do the things their wives want to do. They don’t go shopping with them; don’t talk to them. In fact, some husbands are downright cruel to their wives.

So, how should a husband love his wife? Two analogies explain this…

1. A Spirit-Filled Husband’s Love For His Wife… Is Like Christ’s Love For The Church (25b-27)

just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her (25b). Just as the church’s submission to Christ is the model for the wife’s submission to her husband, so Christ’s love for the church is the model for the husband’s love for his wife.

Notice that Christ’s love for the church is an exclusive love: He loved the church.

He loved her, his bride, his body. She was the object of his love. She was the “rose of Sharon”; the “lily of the valley.”

Christ’s love for the church is a sacrificial love: He gave himself. He determined to save his people. He set his face as a flint to go to the cross. He sacrificed himself for the church at the cross. It cost him his life-blood.

Christ’s love for the church is a personal love: He gave himself. He didn’t send someone else to redeem her. He didn’t send an angel. He came himself. No one else could pay the price except him and he wanted it no other way. Here am I send me (Isa. 6:8). His love was a personal love.

Christ’s love for the church is a redemptive love: He gave himself for her. He bought her back to himself, redeemed her from slavery to Satan and sin, retrieved her from an idolatrous love affair with sin.

Christ’s love for the church was a purposeful love. Three purposes are given:

a) His immediate purpose was to make her holy. …that he might sanctify and cleanse her (26a). Sanctification is both positional and practical. Positionally we are sanctified at the moment of conversion - separated from the sinful world and set apart to God for his worship and service. Practically we are sanctified throughout our lifetime - made pure and holy in character and conduct.

Sanctification involves cleansing ...through the washing of water by the word (26b). Some say that the water here refers to baptism and that the word refers to a baptismal word of confession or some sort of baptismal formula. But, it says washing of water by the word not washing of water and the word.

Surely, then this must be a spiritual cleansing through the agency of the word of God, a cleansing that is analogous to washing with water.3 Washing of water is figurative of spiritual purification; 4 that’s why it is called pure water. 5 And the means of this cleansing is the word of God that washes us spiritually clean from the world’s spiritual defilement. 6

This washing by the word is a daily thing that rids us of spiritual impurity and makes us fit for communion with a holy God.

b) His ultimate purpose is to make her glorious. …that He might present her to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (27).

He will present her to himself (27a). Christ has paid the dowry for his bride, bought her and presently betrothed to her during this time of separation. And his redemption of her looks forward to the eschatological presentation of her to himself on the final “wedding day”.

Today society considers it “bad luck” for a groom to see his bride in her wedding dress before the wedding. But our heavenly bridegroom has his eye on us and is preparing us for the wedding day. Our presentation to himself will be no surprise to him for he has made it all possible!

Husbands, work to make your wives glorious in their own eyes and in the eyes of others, with the result that your marriages will be glorious for all to see.

He will present her to himself a glorious church (27b).

  • She will be glorious because the glory of God will shine from her. She will not be as the church often is today, stained and dull, but a glory that is unsullied and dazzling will radiate from her.
  • She will be glorious because she will be a bride adorned for her husband, arrayed in the splendour and beauty of her wedding day.
  • She will be glorious because she will be free from blemish …not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (27c). Her beauty will be unequalled - no wrinkles on her skin, no age spots on her face, no evidence of the pollution of earth, no traces of defilement. Her cheeks will have colour, her eyes will sparkle, her teeth will glisten white, just as she emerges from the spiritual beauty parlour in all her freshness and vigour, in flawless beauty.
  • She will be glorious because she will be holy and without blemish (27d) - no moral or spiritual stain; a bride adorned for her bridegroom, the holy, spotless Lamb of God.

c) Christ’s love for the church had one overall purpose - the redemption and purity of his bride, the church. He died to make her his own, cleansed her and set her apart. And He is preparing her for that glorious day of presentation when he will display her to the world in all her glory and holy perfection; when she will be the eternal object of his delight; and when she will glorify him for what he has done.

That’s the kind of love husbands are to have for their wives. If you are a Spirit-filled husband you will lead by giving yourself for your wife in ways similar to Christ’s giving of himself for his bride, the church.

  • Your love is to be exclusive - eyes for no one else.
  • Your love is to be sacrificial. Love her to the point of death. Don’t crush her or despise her but sacrifice yourself for her in order that she may rise to the fullness of her God-given glory and so to become all that God wants her to be.
  • Your love is to be personal. Pour yourself into her life. Don’t leave it to other people like her friends or her family.

Your love is to be redemptive. Draw her closer and closer to God. Make her more and more like Christ.

Your love is to be purposeful. To make her holy; to set her apart for God; to encourage her to be a godly woman. And to present her to God in all her spiritual and physical beauty for God’s pleasure and glory.

So, a Spirit-filled husband’s love for his wife is like Christ’s love for his church. And…

2. A Spirit-Filled Husband’s Love For His Wife… Is Like His Love For His Own Body (28-31)

A) Spirit-Filled Husbands Love Their Wives As They Love Themselves: In The Same Way Husbands Ought To Love Their Own Wives As Their Own Bodies (28a)

That’s the example that Christ left us. He loved the church as his own body so much so that he gave himself for her. In the same way, the husband should love his wife as (i.e. in the same way and to the same degree that) he loves his own body - a preserving love, protecting love, nourishing love.

B) Spirit-Filled Husbands Love Their Wives As Their Own Flesh: He Who Loves His Own Wife Loves Himself For No One Ever Hated His Own Flesh, But Nourishes And Cherishes It, Just As The Lord Does (I.E. Nourishes And Cherishes) The Church, Because We Are Members Of His Body (28b-30)

The wife is the husband’s own flesh. She is intimately joined to him physically and spiritually. She is a member of his body. Therefore, when a husband loves his wife he loves himself.

It isn’t normal to hate your own body. No one hates his own flesh. You may not like the way you look but you do not hate your body in the sense of not taking care of it. That’s why you nourish and cherish it. You feed it and lovingly care for it.

And that’s why you care for and treasure your wife, because she is a member of your body. That’s why Christ feeds us and cares for us because we are members of his body - we are his personal concern (1 Pet. 5:7), the object of his care.

All of this is in accordance with the principle of Gen. 2:24, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (31). In marriage a man and a woman are united together in a bond that is stronger than any other human relationship because they are one flesh.

You are to love your neighbour as yourself. Since your wife is your nearest and dearest “neighbour”, she should be your deepest love. She is a member of your body. So nurture her, care for her! Cherish your wife as one who is inseparably joined to you.

To mistreat your wife is to mistreat your own flesh! Don’t abuse your position of headship. Don’t be negative, punitive, oppressive, and critical. Don’t treat your wife as a servant to take care of you, but as one who is part of you. You have a “one-flesh” union with her. Your role as head is to give yourself for your wife’s good, sustenance, nourishment, comfort, love, and care. She is your equal who voluntarily submits to your leadership. So make sure you earn her voluntary submission

Conclusions

The marriage union is a picture of Christ and the Church. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church (32). The wife’s one-flesh union with her husband in marriage is a model of the church’s union with Christ, a union that was a great mystery in ages past but now it is revealed, known, and understood through the work of Christ on the cross.

Since the marriage relationship from the very beginning was a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church, we conclude that the voluntary submission of the wife and the loving leadership of the husband are not accidental, temporary, or cultural but part of the essence of marriage as God planned it.

Harmony in marriage is a matter of love, respect, and commitment. For the husband it is a matter of love. Let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself (33a). Your love for your wife is to be the same as your love for yourself - no exceptions, no deviations, absolute loyalty, total devotion, constant faithfulness, the care and affection as for a priceless treasure. Your headship is to be used for the ultimate and eternal good of your wife. Use your position to care not crush, to serve not dominate.

For the wife it is a matter of respect. Let the wife see that she respects her husband (33b). You are to defer to him as the head with God-given responsibilities, to “reverence” him just as all believers are to “reverence” Christ (21).

A harmonious marriage is, above all, sacrificial. It is to be viewed in terms of the atonement. That’s how Christ thought of his relationship with his bride, the church. It’s a matter of committing yourselves to each other fully and unconditionally, loving each other no matter what - the wife submitting because she reverences her husband and the husband giving himself because he loves his wife and both working together for God’s glory.


1 The other instance where this same principle is true is in the leadership of the church (1 Tim. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 14:34ff.)

2 Adapted from John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 219-220.

3 See Ps. 51:2, 7; Lev. 15 and 16

4 Tit. 2:14; James 4:8

5 Cf. Ezek. 16:9; 36:25; Heb. 10:22; Tit. 2:14; 3:5.

6 See Fee, NIBC, Titus 3:5, 205. See 1 Tim. 4:5

Related Topics: Marriage

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