3. Pursuing Purity Together, Pt. 1: Contrasting Principles Of Living (4:17-24)Related Media
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: “Don’t 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 God’s 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.
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)Related Media
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
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)Related Media
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.
Don’t 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).
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.”
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 Christ’s 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, don’t 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.
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)Related Media
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 Lord’s 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.
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
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
7. Relating To One Another In Harmony, Pt. 2: The Harmony Of Children And Parents (6:1-4)Related Media
Our subject in this series is “Living Together in Community,” one aspect of which is “Relating to One Another in Harmony.” Harmonious relationships are the natural result of mutual submission: submitting to one another in the fear of Christ (5:21).
The epistle of Ephesians that we are studying has as its central theme the “unity of the church” in our position (ch. 1-3) and practice (ch. 4-6). Relationships play a vital role in unity in any organization and my proposition to you is that “unity in the church depends on harmony in all our relationships.”
Having addressed “The Harmony of Wives and Husbands” (Eph. 5:22-33), the apostle Paul now addresses “The Harmony of Children and Parents.” We’ve seen that a harmonious relationship in marriage depends upon a Spirit-filled wife willingly submitting to the leadership of her husband and a Spirit-filled husband sacrificially loving his wife.
Now, the subject turns from the relationship of wives and husbands to children and parents. As in marriages, so in families, submission is central to harmony.
Who are the “children” Paul is addressing? Well, in one way it includes all of us since we are all someone’s child. But specifically, it refers to those who are:
1. Old enough to be admonished and appealed to, but young enough to be still in the process of being brought up.
2. Old enough to make a personal commitment to Christ, but young enough to still be under their parents jurisdiction and authority (i.e. living at home).
I. The Obligations Of Christian Children To Their Parents (1-3)
Christian children have two basic obligations:
1. Christian Children Are To Be “Obey” Their Parents (1)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Spirit-filled wives “submit” to their husband; Spirit-filled husbands “love” their wives; and Spirit-filled children obey their parents. To obey literally means to “hear under” - i.e. to put yourself under the words and authority of your parents; to listen up attentively ; to listen with the purpose of responding positively.
How should Christian children obey their parents? …in the Lord. The interpretive question here is: “Does in the Lord modify obey or parents? Since in the Lord is followed by for this is right, it would make most sense that in the Lord qualifies obey rather than parents. In other words, the children’s obedience is to be characterized as in the Lord (for such obedience is right), rather than their parents being in the Lord, about which it would hardly be said, for this is right.
So, the statement here is about the obedience of the children, not the Christianity of the parents. The obedience of Christian children is described as in the Lord because their attitude to their parents displays their relationship to the Lord. If their obedience is in the Lord they will obey their parents for the Lord’s sake.
Obedience to parents is part of Christian discipleship. Have you been raised in a Christian home? Are you in the Lord? Do you want to walk as Jesus walked? Do you want to demonstrate the reality of Christ in you? Then, show it by being obedient to your parents!
In their obedience to their parents, Christian children show their reverence for the Lord (21) by submitting to the authority and responsibility that God has given to their parents. Your Christian home is where you should first demonstrate your faith by being obedient to your parents. So, obey your parents because your are in the Lord. Be obedient to them because you are a Christian and because you want to be obedient to the Lord! To obey your parents is to obey the Lord, so obey them for the Lord’s sake.
The first motivation to obey your parents is to do so in the Lord - that’s “how” you should obey them. But…
Why should children obey their parents? …because this is right. This is the second motivation to obey your parents. Obedience to parents is right because the Lord commands and expects it, not because society or because psychologists say so. Human behaviour isn’t motivated by what is right before God but by what seems right to them in their own eyes. That’s why so many children are disobedient to their parents – they have no fear of God; they aren’t concerned with what is right before God. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12).
Obedience to your parents is right because God says so. It is right as before the Lord. It’s God’s standard of right and everything that God commands is right. “For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hos. 14:9). “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8).
When you obey your parents you are doing what is right because (1) you are doing what God wants you to do; (2) you are obeying him; and (3) you are doing what pleases him. Conversely, when you disobey your parents you are doing what is wrong because you are disobeying God and displeasing him. Disobedience to parents is a sign of a depraved society (Rom. 1:30) and a sign of the evil of the last days (2 Tim. 3:2).
The first obligation of Christian children is to obey their parents. The second is…
2. Christian Children Are To “Honour” Their Parents (2-3)
If obedience is a right act, honour is a right attitude, the attitude of valuing your parents highly, holding them in high regard. Notice two important things about this obligation and commandment…
The key to all human relationships is the relationship with your parents. Honour your father and mother (2a). Children are to honour their father and mother. Notice it does not say “honour your parents” as a couple, but honour your father and mother as individuals (i.e. you are to honour them equally individually and for who they are - representatives of God’s love and authority).
This principle is so important that Moses said that physical or verbal abuse of a parent is a capital offence punishable by death (cf. Ex. 21:15; Lev. 20:9; Matt. 15:3). What if that standard were applied today?
All human relationships grow out of the relationship of children to their parents. Hence, children who are undisciplined and disobedient will contribute to a society that is chaotic and destructive. But children who obey and respect their parents will contribute to the ordering of a harmonious and productive society. Children who honour their father and mother will also honour other authority figures. If you want to know why young offenders are the way they are, take a look at their attitude and relationship to their parents. Obedience and honour are learned at home.
This is the first commandment with a promise (2b), namely, “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (3). Under Jewish law there were rewards for keeping certain laws. Keeping this law brought with it the rewards of prosperity and long life. Perhaps there is a connection between long life for obeying and honouring your parents vs. death by capital punishment for those who abused their parents under the O.T. law.
But Christians aren’t under the law in the same sense that the O.T. Jews were and we certainly have no promises concerning material prosperity or length of life. Why then is the promise quoted here? – probably two reasons…
1) Because the promise reinforces the significance and importance of the commandment.
2) Because honour for your parents does bring with it certain rewards. They may not be material prosperity or long life, but you’ll enjoy a lasting, rich, healthy, happy, satisfying, harmonious relationship with your parents and family; you’ll prosper in your relationships with others; you’ll develop a good attitude to life; you’ll live in peace and with respect others. That’s a great reward for honouring your father and mother! Many people would give anything to have that kind of relationship with their parents.
Such, then, are the obligations of Christian, Spirit-filled children to their father and mother. Now notice…
II. The Obligations Of Fathers To Their Children (4)
There are two commands to fathers - one negative and one positive. First the negative:
1. Fathers Are Not To Anger Their Children
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath (4a).
In Greco-Roman culture, fathers were power figures. They had virtual life and death power over the household. They could sell their children as slaves (even kill them) and certainly didn’t show much love to their children. A newborn baby was placed at its father’s feet to determine its fate. If he picked it up, it stayed but if he walked away, it was disposed of by being taken to the town forum where it would be picked up and raised as a slave or a prostitute. Children born weak and deformed were drowned. Baby girls were left outside, exposed to the weather so that they died.
Is that so different than today? No! Today we have live-birth abortions and so many children abandoned, neglected and mistreated. Fathers are the most likely to provoke their children to anger. To provoke to anger suggests a pattern of treatment that generates a deep-seated exasperation, anger, resentment that erupts into outward hostility.
What treatment can generate this kind of response?
- Showing favouritism (e.g. Isaac re: Esau; Sarah re: Jacob).
- Pressuring them to excel, to achieve in schoolwork, sports etc.
- Discouraging them by criticizing them, never complimenting or encouraging them.
- Not letting children be children. Structuring their lives so tightly that they have no time to play, or to use their imagination, or to relax.
- Physical and verbal harshness, improper discipline, sarcasm, put downs, bitter words.
Do you know the three things that fathers say most to their children?
1) “I’m too tired”
2) “We don’t have enough money”
3) “Keep quiet” 1
Did you know that 66% of teenagers spend less than 30 minutes a week talking to their father about things that really matter to them? 2
How do you avoid provoking your children to anger? By avoiding attitudes, words, and actions which would drive a child to such exasperation or resentment. This rules out excessively severe discipline, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, unfairness, nagging, condemnation, humiliation, insensitivity to a child’s needs and sensibilities. Fathers hold great power but there are bounds to the use of that power. Children are not chattels that you own but human beings.
After the negative command comes the positive:
2. Fathers Are To Train Their Children
…but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (4b)
It’s a father’s responsibility to discipline his children. Discipline means correction. It has the sense of what is done to and for the child. Nobody finds discipline (in the sense of chastisement pleasant), neither the father nor the child. In fact it can be downright painful but it yields long term benefits – namely, the “peaceable fruits of righteousness” (Heb. 12:6-11).
Fathers, bring up your children in the discipline of the Lord! Chasten them as the Lord chastens us but without generating bitterness. Train them. Instruct them from the Word (2 Tim 3:16) so that they learn righteousness. But don’t exasperate them in the process.
Teach them rules and regulations, rewards and punishments, but not so that they resent it and become angry (Prov. 13:24; 22:6). Punish them if necessary but not so that they hate you for it. Correct them but don’t harm their attitudes and emotions. Nurture them in Christian character and conduct so that they love what you love.
Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, raised seventeen children and had these words to say about raising children: “The parent who studies to subdue (self-will) in the child works together with God in renewing and saving the soul. The parent who indulges it does the devil’s work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body forever.” 3 These are strong words from someone who knows the importance of discipline.
So, it’s a father’s responsibility to train, discipline your children. And...
It’s a father’s responsibility to “admonish” his children. To admonition (lit. “put them in mind”), means to instruct them in what they need to know. It has more the sense of what is said to the child. Admonition is more verbal correction and instruction – warning, encouraging. It has to do with right attitudes and principles of behaviour.
Fathers, raise your children in the admonition of the Lord! Warn them of things that are wrong without breaking their spirits. Counsel them from your experience without lording it over them. Instruct them but don’t be burdensome. Encourage them, reprove them, remonstrate with them but don’t breathe down their necks all the time; don’t turn them aside.
Notice that discipline and admonition are both of the Lord. The Lord is the reference point in all of this. This is the key. It is specifically Christian training - training by instruction and example, training according to God’s Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “The very heart of Christian nurture is…to bring the heart of the child to the heart of his Saviour.” 4
Young people, what’s your response to this message? Do you need to change your attitude to your parents? How’s your behaviour been lately? If I talked to your parents, would they say you’re obedient or disobedient? If you want to please God, obey your parents, not begrudgingly but joyfully in the Lord, out of honour for who they are.
Fathers, how’s your relationship with your children? Do you have time for them? Are you patient, loving, and kind to them? When they need help, comfort, and advice, do they come to you? Are you their best friend and hero? Are you the one they want to be like when they grow up?
In Ramsey County, Minnesota, ninth and tenth graders were interviewed about their dads. They were asked this question: “What comes to mind when you think of dad’? Answers came immediately from both ends of the spectrum. One end of the spectrum said, “I think of the word ‘jerk.’” Others thought of words like angry, mad, and absent. On the other hand, some of the young people said, “I think of wholeness, kindness, security, safety.” Dad is an immensely powerful word. 5
Fathers, you’ve got a big obligation to your children. Make the most of these formative years when their young minds and hearts can be moulded by Christian values. None of us knows how our children will turn out so what a motivation to raise them for God in the training and instruction of the Lord!
1 Cited in Christianity Today, August 27, 1976.
2 Barna Research Group (2/94). “To Verify,” Leadership.
3 From the Journal of John Wesley
4 Hendriksen, Ephesians, 263.
5 Roger Thompson, Becoming a Man, “Preaching Today,” Tape no. 140.
8. Relating To One Another In Harmony, Pt. 3: The Harmony Of Servants And Masters (6:5-9)Related Media
This article continues our series on “Living Together in Community” based on Ephesians 4 to 6 (please see the previous articles). Ephesians 5:22-6:9 deals with harmonious relationships in the Christian community.
Relationships in the ancient world were not always harmonious. Husbands lorded over their wives, fathers were harsh with their children, and masters abused their slaves.
In addressing each relationship, Paul isn’t trying to change the social structure of the day but to change the perspective of his readers by pointing them to Christ. We’ve already noticed that (1) wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord; (2) husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church; (3) children are to obey their parents in the Lord; and (4) fathers are to raise their children in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Today, we come to the last relationship in this passage, the relationship of slaves and masters. We don’t have slavery here in Canada, fortunately, but it still exists in some countries. The influence of Christianity finally helped to eradicate the system of slavery in England through statesmen like William Wilberforce and William Pitt and through preachers like John Wesley and George Whitefield. The root of the problem wasn’t the social system but the human heart. And that problem is still with us today.
Since we don’t have masters and slaves anymore in our society, I’m going to apply this passage to relationships in the workplace, servants (employees) and masters (employers) where the human heart is still a problem
Harmonious relationships stem from a Christian perspective, a Christian perspective of who you are and whom you serve. Even with slavery, Paul didn’t try to change the existing social structure but he tried to change their perspective so that Christian slaves and their masters could enjoy harmonious relationships in Christ.
The Christian perspective is (1) that you are a child of God and that your life’s work is to serve the Lord; (2) that you respect the authority structure God has established in the family, the church, and society; and (3) within that structure you practice mutual submission.
Remember our thesis for this section: “Unity in the church depends on harmony in all our relationships”. The key to harmonious relationships is mutual submission and mutual submission stems from the perspective of seeing ourselves “in Christ”. When mutual submission is practiced in the workplace, employees and employers work together in harmony.
Harmony in the workplace is generated firstly by…
I. The Obedience Of The Christian Employee (5-8)
Bondservants, be obedient to your masters according to the flesh (5a) - i.e. earthly masters. If you’re employed, be obedient to your superior. This isn’t conditional. It’s not based on fair or kind treatment by your employer. Rather, you are to keep on being obedient no matter what. 1 Peter 2:18 says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.”
Christian obedience is radical. If you’re told to do something, then do it joyfully, willingly, and obediently. Don’t grumble and complain. Don’t say: “It’s not my job!”
The term earthly masters infers …
1. That our submission to them is temporal
a) Our obedience to earthly masters only lasts for a while – it only covers our earthly employment
b) It has nothing to do with spiritual or moral matters.
2. That we also have a heavenly Master to whom we owe final allegiance and who is perfectly loving and just and kind.
So, how do we show this radical, Christian obedience?
1. Christian Obedience Is Shown In Your Attitude
It’s an attitude of respect - with fear and trembling (5b). This doesn’t mean that you cringe with fear before your employer. It doesn’t mean that you cower like a scared puppy in fright. Rather, it means that you honour and respect your employer, that you revere them, you acknowledge that the source of their authority is God.
It’s an attitude of sincerity - in sincerity of heart (5c). You are to be undivided in your loyalty, devoid of hypocrisy, with no ulterior motives. Your attitude is marked by integrity, wholeheartedness, uprightness, purity of motive.
It’s an attitude of submission - as to Christ (5d). This is the perspective that makes such obedience possible. Your obedience to your earthly master is actually obedience and submission to Christ. Your work becomes an opportunity to work for Christ and to submit to Christ. This is the fundamental Christian attitude – one of submission and obedience to Christ.
It has nothing to do with the character of your boss or his treatment of you. It has everything to do with submitting to Christ. Christians ought to be the most obedient, upright, respectful employees because they work as to Christ. This can make your testimony very believable and powerful. If your work ethic is different from unbelievers, if you speak, think, and act differently, you can have a powerful testimony. But if you always arrive at work late and leave early, do poor quality work, take long lunch breaks, and constantly complain about your boss, your testimony won’t be believable.
If your employer is a Christian, don’t think that you are entitled to special treatment. Christian employers are entitled to even more respect and obedience because they are brothers or sisters in the Lord. Give of your absolute best no matter who your employer is and in so doing you glorify God. If you can’t tolerate your work, then find something else, but don’t slack off so long as you work there. Keep on working as to Christ, be punctual, reliable, and co-operative.
First, then, Christian obedience is shown in your attitude. And second…
2. Christian Obedience Is Shown In Your Diligence (6-8)
A diligent Christian does not work with eye service as men pleasers (6a). You don’t seek to be the boss’s favourite. You don’t curry his attention or his recognition. Your objective is not just to make an outward impression. You don’t work just to catch the boss’s eye.
Don’t be superficial. Don’t “obey” in order to curry the boss’s favour. Don’t just work hard when the boss is looking and stop when he turns his back. That’s deceit. Integrity of heart excludes such behavior. Don’t do a good job just to make an impression or to please men for your own selfish ends, but rather, work hard whether you are recognized or not. Work diligently whether you are rewarded for it or not. A diligent Christian doesn’t work to please men.
Rather a diligent Christian works as a servant of Christ (6b). Regardless of denominational loyalties and official creeds, your true god is the one you serve. We are servants of Christ. A servant of Christ does the will of God from the heart (6c). You’re not just going through the motions at work. You’re not just attentive on the outside but miles away on the inside. Rather, you’re engrossed in doing the will of God from your innermost being, from your soul. Your heart’s desire is to glorify God in doing his will on the job.
Doing the will of God from the heart is part of your everyday life – at home, at work, at school, or at church. God’s will is all-encompassing. It is generated inwardly in your heart and soul and it is expressed outwardly in your attitude - your diligence, your wholeheartedness. What a contrast with those who do eye service, those who pay lip service, but have no inner conviction about how they work!
A servant of Christ serves with enthusiasm doing service as to the Lord and not men (7). The one who does the will of God does the work of God with all your strength (Eccl. 9:10), being fervent in spirit (Rom. 12:11), doing it heartily as to the Lord (Col. 3:23). Your enthusiasm comes from a new perspective. You no longer see yourself as a slave of men but as a slave of Christ, doing service as to the Lord and not men.
A diligent Christian, then, does not work to please men but as a servant of Christ.
And a diligent Christian works for God’s reward: …knowing that whatever good you do, you will receive the same from the Lord, whether you are a slave or free (8). This is the assurance that sustains the right attitude. Your boss may not adequately or properly compensate you for all the extras you do but God will, “for all things are open and naked before him” (Heb. 4:13). Work diligently because you know the Lord is the final judge - not your boss, not your Board of Directors, not your principal, not your manager, but God himself.
Rewards for doing good aren’t a matter of social position. It’s not just management people who are rewarded for results. We all have a profit-sharing plan with God whether you are an employee or employer. It’s this end-view perspective that makes it all worthwhile. You know that when you do the will of God for the glory of God that God will take note, that no good deed will go unnoticed or unrewarded. Whatever good deeds you do for the glory of God are never done in vain.
Many years ago, an elderly missionary couple returned from Africa to retire in New York City. As their ship steamed into New York harbour, they were cast down because of their bleak situation – they had no pension, their health was broken, they were discouraged and fearful about the future. What made it worse was that on board their ship was President Teddy Roosevelt, returning from a big-game hunting expedition in Africa. As the ship pulled into the harbour, a band was playing on the dock and a huge crowd had gathered to welcome the returning president, including the mayor of NY. But no one was there to meet the missionaries. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap apartment on the east side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city. That night the man’s spirit just broke. He said to his wife, “I can’t take this. God is not fair! We don’t even know anyone to help us, or where to go. If God is faithful, why doesn’t he meet our need?” “Why don’t you ask him?” replied his wife. “All right,” said the man, “I will.” He went to his bedroom and prayed for a while. Later, he seemed completely changed. His wife asked him what happened. “Well,” he said, “the Lord settled with me. I told the Lord how bitter I was that the president should receive this tremendous homecoming when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord simply said, ‘But you’re not home yet!’”1
That’s a great truth, isn’t it? We may not receive just rewards in this life from our earthly masters but God will hand out the final reward when we get home. Any deed done for God will receive its just reward in the day of judgement.
Harmony in the workplace is generated by the obedience of the Christian employee. It is also generated by…
II. The Example Of The Christian Employer (9)
Christian masters need to demonstrate 3 principles…
1. Do To Others As You Would Have Them Do To You
Masters, do the same to them (9a). Treat your employees the way you want them to treat you. The culture in any organization stems from the top. If you want them to show a good attitude toward you, then you better show a good attitude toward them. Respect them, be sincere toward them. If you want obedience from them, make sure you show a submissive spirit yourself. Demonstrate mutual submission. If you want them to be conscientious and genuine toward you, then you make sure that you treat them honestly. Don’t you try to dupe your employees into doing what you want for your own selfish motives. If you want them to work diligently for you, then you’d better be diligent in providing them with good working conditions, wages, and benefits. If you want them to work with enthusiasm, give them something to be enthusiastic about - a happy environment, fair treatment.
Don’t get a high opinion of yourself because you’re the boss. Don’t think that you can practice different standard of ethics from everyone else. You aren’t protected by your position. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t exempt you from showing courtesy, respect, fairness. Do the same to your employees as you expect from them.
Make sure that you do the will of God from the heart, that you carry out your duties with zeal, that you conduct your business with God’s reward in mind. Give yourself a reality check once in a while. Ask yourself if you are working to please the Lord or self, if you want the Lord’s favour or man’s.
The first principle to be practised by Christian masters is “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The second principle is...
2. Don’t Misuse Your Power
… giving up threatening (9b). Don’t use threats to get your own way. Slaves were powerless before their masters – they had no legal rights. To be threatened was a frightening thing for them. They had no place to turn.
But a relationship based on power isn’t a proper Christian relationship. Threats push people apart. Threats are a weapon of the powerful over the powerless. So, don’t use your position of authority unlawfully or to the detriment of those under you. Don’t provoke them like some fathers do their children. Don’t throw your weight around. Don’t lord it over them.
The third principal for Christian masters is this...
3. Remember, You’re Accountable Yourself
…knowing that your own Master also is in heaven (9c). You have a master as well - the ultimate Master in heaven. He holds ultimate power. His decision is final. You’re accountable to him. He’s your Master as well as theirs, so you are fellow servants of Jesus Christ together. You and your Christian employees are accountable to the same Master.
You aren’t any more important to God than your employees because there is no partiality with Him (9d). Your heavenly Master isn’t influenced by position, rank, or power. You may be used to being pampered and favoured by others because of your position but your heavenly Master shows no partiality to anyone. So, don’t be deceived into thinking that somehow He will favour you. He plays no favourites: He’s an impartial Judge. He loves you equally with those who work under you.
Harmony in the workplace is a matter of Christian perspective. It’s a perspective that allows you to see all your relationships differently and that you’ve been liberated from the slavery of pleasing men to the freedom of serving Christ. It’s a perspective that makes it possible for a housewife to order her household as though Jesus were her guest, for a teacher to teach children as if Jesus were in the classroom, for an accounts payable clerk to pay the bills as if Jesus were her customer, for a secretary to type correspondence and a factory worker to operate machinery as if they were serving Christ, for that is exactly what they are doing – serving Christ.
This is a perspective that generates harmonious relationships:
1) Because the superiority of the boss and subservience of the worker is replaced by mutual respect and admiration.
2) Because the worker obeys his boss wholeheartedly and the boss is kind to his workers.
3) Because the ill-will and dishonesty that was so prevalent in slaves is replaced by willing service, integrity, and industry; and
4) Because the cruelty and brutality of masters is replaced by consideration and love.
That’s what we must work for - a community of faith that is gloriously transformed into a new community in Christ where inequities are abolished, where we share our possessions, where we are all equal before God, where we practice mutual submission, where individuals are respected for who they are, and where harmony reigns supreme in all our relationships, a harmony toward which we are moving and which will ultimately be displayed in all its beauty and perfection in the New Jerusalem where we will be one with each other and with the Lord
1 Ray Stedman, “Talking with My Father,” 27.
Related Topics: Christian Life
9. Standing Together In Victory, Pt. 1: The Power and Provision for Spiritual Battles (Eph. 6:10-13)Related Media
My wife and I have been to Romania many times to minister to pastors and churches there. One of the places we have visited is the City of Timisoara. Timisoara has a fascinating history, particularly for its part in the 1989 revolution against President Ceausescu’s cruel regime. Laszlo Tokes was the pastor of a fast-growing reformed church in the city of Timisoara. So powerful was his preaching that the communist officials began to strategically suppress him. They stationed police officers around his church and hired thugs to attack him. Finally, just before Christmas 1989, they decided to send him into exile but when the police arrived to take Pastor Tokes away, they found the church surrounded by a wall of people. Christians from all over the city and from all denominations had united together to protect Pastor Tokes and to protest the communists’ actions against him.
All through the day they stood their ground. As it grew dark, a student named Daniel Gavra pulled out some candles, lit one and passed it to the person next to him. Then he lit another, and another until the December darkness was pierced by the light of hundreds of candles. When Pastor Tokes looked out of the window of the church, all he saw was a sea of faces lit up by a warm glow.
Two days later, armed forces finally broke through the crowd and dragged Pastor Tokes away. But that was not the end. Thousands of people streamed from the church across the bridge leading into the city square, where they began a full-scale demonstration against the communist government.
Struck with panic, the communist officials ordered the troops to shoot at the crowd. Hundreds were shot that day, including Daniel Gavra, whose leg was blown off. But the protest wasn’t supressed by bullets. Within days, this demonstration in Timisoara sparked a nation-wide uprising, such that the army that once obeyed Ceausescu’s orders actually turned against him. As he and his wicked wife tried to escape by air, airborne troops surrounded their helicopter and forced them to land. On Christmas day 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were publicly executed.
My wife and I have seen Pastor Tokes’ church. We’ve seen the bullet holes in the walls of the buildings in the city square. And I have met the General of the Army who called off the troops and who turned against President Ceausescu and his government.
For the first time in half a century, the people of Romania celebrated Christmas that year in freedom. In the hospital, Daniel Gavra celebrated while learning to walk on crutches. When his pastor came by to offer his sympathies, Daniel said: “Pastor, I don’t mind so much the loss of a leg. After all, it was I who lit the first candle.”1
This touching and brave incident in the history of Romania reminds us of what the church can do when we stand together as a community, ready to fight evil, and “having done all to stand” (Eph. 6:13).
The concept of the church is referred to in Ephesians as a “mystery” (3:3) because God’s plan for the church was incomprehensible and because the union of Jews and Gentiles together in one body was inconceivable. But now, what was previously incomprehensible has been made known and what was previously inconceivable has been accomplished in Christ.
So now, all Christians share a common position in Christ (Eph. 1:1-3:21). The separation between Jews and Gentiles is gone. We have common blessings (1:3-23), a common transformation (2:1-10), and a common relationship in Christ (2:11-22). But it’s not sufficient to claim a common position in Christ without showing it in a common practice. That’s why Paul urges us to live together in community in a way that’s worthy of our position. So far we have learned that our lives are to be characterized by…
1. Walking together in unity (4:1-6)
2. Growing together in maturity (4:7-16)
3. Pursuing purity together (4:17-5:21)
4. Relating together in harmony (5:22-6:9)
Lastly, our life together in the community of faith is to be characterized by “Standing Together in Victory” (6:10-20). In our life together in community, we face a real spiritual battle. While the relationships of Christian husbands and wives, children and parents, slaves and masters is to be marked by mutual submission and, thus, harmony, there is one more relationship which cannot be reconciled, will never be peaceful, and to which we can never submit nor obey. That’s our relationship to the devil.
Our relationship to the devil is characterized as a spiritual battle. Our spiritual life in Christ is not always smooth sailing. We have an enemy, the devil who is hostile to everyone who submits to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The devil is doing everything he can to destroy what God has established - namely, the united community of the church. Our passage in this article teaches us that “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection.”
I. Our Power For Spiritual Battles Is The Lord (10)
The admonition, Finally, my brothers, be strengthened in the Lord and in his mighty power (10) reminds us of God’s encouragement to Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). It also reminds us of Paul’s exhortation: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).
Be strengthened (10a) is the passive voice. This indicates that, since we cannot strengthen ourselves, our strength comes from a source outside ourselves. Where does it come from? How are we strengthened? Firstly…
1. We Are Strengthened By Our Spiritual Position - In The Lord (10b)
God provides us with the strength to withstand the onslaughts of the enemy. We derive our empowerment for battle through and from the Lord. Because we are in the Lord, we are strong. He strengthens us. We can’t do it for ourselves for we have no strength of our own. We are like a baby in the mother’s womb which derives its life and strength and nourishment from its mother. We are in the Lord - his riches are our riches, his life our life, his wisdom our wisdom, his strength our strength. On our own, we are weak; without him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). But in the Lord we are strong: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
We are strengthened by our spiritual position – in the Lord. And…
2. We Are Strengthened By Our Spiritual Resource - His Mighty Power (10c)
Because we are in the Lord we have access to God’s mighty power. The mighty power of God is ours through Christ. It’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in heavenly places (Eph. 1:20). It’s the same power that transformed us from being dead in trespasses and sins to being alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1). That same mighty power is ours. That’s our resource for spiritual battles.
The Hibernia oil platform is located in the Atlantic Ocean 189 miles east-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, in 80 meters of water. The total structure is 224 meters high from ocean floor to the top of the derricks. Unlike the fated Ocean Ranger, a platform that sank in 1982 with all 84 men on board lost at sea, the Hibernia’s design incorporates a gravity based structure which anchors it to the seabed.
The Hibernia was built as a stationary platform because it is located right in the middle of what scientists call “iceberg alley”. The icebergs that ply these waters can be as large as ocean liners.
Sixteen concrete teeth surround the Hibernia. These teeth can distribute the force of an iceberg over the entire structure and into the seabed. The Hibernia is built to withstand a 1,000,000 ton iceberg (expected every 500 years), and designers claim it can actually withstand a 6,000,000 ton iceberg (expected once in 10,000 years) with repairable damage.
Even with all these protection measures, Hibernia’s designers take no chances. Radio operators plot and monitor all icebergs within 27 miles. Any that come close are towed away from the platform by powerful supply ships. Smaller ones are simply diverted using the ship’s high-pressure water cannons. As rugged and as strong as this platform is, and as prepared as it is for icebergs to strike it, Hibernia will never allow an iceberg even to come close; it does not rely on its own strength. 2
We need to take the threat of spiritual danger just as seriously. Don’t place your confidence in your own strength. Don’t think that you are able to deal with spiritual icebergs that may come your way. Your strength is hopelessly insufficient.
Our spiritual strength comes from our position in the Lord and our spiritual strength comes from our resource in his mighty power. So, Be strong in the Lord! Don’t give way to doubts. Don’t waver in your faith. Be steadfast in the truth. Be strong… in his mighty power! Draw on his strength. The Lord’s power is greater than all the forces that we face. King Saul and the people of Israel cowered in fear before Goliath; nobody thought that he could be defeated. But in God’s mighty power David slew the giant with a sling and a stone. It’s not the amount of strength we have that’s important, it’s the source. The Lord is our source of strength and power, so draw on him.
Our power for spiritual battles is the Lord. And secondly…
II. Our Protection For Spiritual Battles Is God’s Armour (11-12)
We need God’s power and we need God’s protection…
1. We Must Put On God’s Armour (11)
We are only protected if we put on the armour. Armour is no good unless it is worn. God provides it and we are responsible to put it on.
God’s armour covers us from head to toe. Put on the whole (complete) armour of God (11a). There is no part of us that is exposed to the enemy if we put on the whole armour of God. Therefore, to be fully protected we must put on the whole armour. God provides us with a full suit of armour, full protection. It includes every weapon, every tool, every resource we need for battle.
Paul wrote this from a prison cell so he knew what full armour looked like. So many Christians seem to think they don’t need all the armour. Some think that all they need is the helmet of salvation – and you do need that – but you need more than that. Some Christians think that all they need is the belt of truth – and you do need that – but you need more than that. Some Christians think that all they need is the shield of faith – and you do need that - but you need more than that. What good is a helmet without a breastplate or a breastplate without a shield? If you have one without the other you are vulnerable to the sharp arrows of the enemy; you leave part of yourself exposed to being hit, perhaps mortally wounded.
You may think you know all the spiritual truth there is to know, but if you don’t have salvation, what good is it? You may think that your faith will protect you in times of testing, but if you don’t have the truth, what good is it? God’s armour is a complete package.
This is no ordinary armour. It’s the full armor of God. Our own armour is no good for this kind of battle, we need God’s armour. “David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David took them off’” (1 Sam. 17:39). God’s armour was very different from Saul’s armour. Saul’s armour was no good for this battle; it was no match for Goliath. It’s no good trying to devise your own way of fighting the enemy. Don’t try to tackle him with your own weapons or wits. Instead, put on God’s full armour. Remember the apostle Paul’s injunction: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God” (2 Cor. 10:3-4).
God provides us with his armour for a specific purpose: … so that you may be able to stand against the cunning schemes of the devil (11b). Our enemy is the devil. The battle began with Christ’s appearance on earth. As soon as he began his public ministry he began to cast out demons and the reversal of Satan’s takeover of the world began. The battle climaxed at the cross and was won when Christ rose from the dead so that we have been liberated from the devil’s bondage. Satan has been defeated, even though he has not yet surrendered. 3 He is still waging war with God through God’s people, but God enables us to stand firm together against our common enemy, to hold our position while under attack. Now, in order to win the battle we must know the enemy, his tactics, his schemes.
The city of Aqaba lies at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba which is at the northern end of the Red Sea. In 1917, Aqaba seemed impregnable. Any enemy vessel approaching the port would have to face the battery of huge naval guns above the town. All around Aqaba (to the west, the north, and across the gulf to the east) lay barren, waterless, inhospitable desert, so hot that it is referred to as “the anvil of the sun”.
The Turks believed Aqaba to be safe from any attack. But against all odds, Lawrence of Arabia led a force of 50 Arab cavalry across the desert and they managed to rally support among the local people. On July 6, 1917, they swept into Aqaba from the north, from the blind side. The gigantic naval guns were completely powerless to stop them because they were facing in the wrong direction. Aqaba fell, and the Turkish hold on Palestine was broken, to be replaced by the British mandate and eventually by the State of Israel. The Turks failed to defend Aqaba because they made two mistakes - they did not know their enemy, and they did not have the right defensive weapons. 4
Make sure you know who the enemy is and what his tactics are. Our enemy is the “devil”, the chief of the opposing army. Be assured of this, the devil is a real, personal being who “walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
The tactics that the devil uses are cunning schemes. His methods are crafty because he is the arch-deceiver (2 Cor. 2:11). He uses cunning strategies, deceptive methods designed to trap us.
So, what are some of Satan’s most deceptive schemes and outright lies today? The lies that lust is love, that suicide is better than life, that sex is good between consenting adults regardless of gender or marriage. The scheme that pornography is fine as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. The deception that what is shown and said on TV is the truth. Malcolm Muggeridge said: “Of all the inventions of our time, TV is likely to prove the most destructive. (It) grinds us down to spiritual dust so fine that a puff of wind scatters us, leaving nothing behind.”
Satan lies that religious pluralism is favourable to Christianity; that moral relativism is good because it doesn’t assign guilt; that humanistic materialism is all we have to live for. He even deceives people into thinking that he (Satan) doesn’t exist!
Beware of the lies and seductions of Satan. He will use any means possible to access your life. If you open the door of your life to him, just a crack, he will take advantage of it and hound you to death. It’s much easier to not allow Satan entrance than to try and drive him out.
How does Satan gain entrance to people’s lives?
a) By illicit sex - pornography, extra marital sex, perverted sex, trivialized sex etc. These practices are seductive and obsessive. They can take over your life, which is what Satan wants. If you engage in illicit sex it can destroy you spiritually, physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally.
b) By drugs and alcohol. Yes, alcohol is a drug. According to The Addiction Center alcohol is one of the top 10 addictive drugs in our society (along with cocaine, heroin etc.). 5 And it is number 1 in terms of its damage and destruction to individuals, families, and societies. That’s the work of Satan – to destroy your life! Satan wants you under the control of a power greater than yourself, not God’s power but Satan’s.
c) By false teachings like evolution, which is taught in school as scientific fact when it isn’t. Evolution is the invention of man’s atheistic imagination to try and explain the world without God. False teachings like pluralism, that all roads lead to God, and like postmodernism, that there is no knowable absolute truth – that it’s all relative.
Basically, anything that deceives, destroys, or steals is from Satan (Jn. 10:10). Anything that tempts you into sin is from Satan, because God does not tempt anyone with sin (Jas. 1:13). Satan’s methods are crafty, shrewd, ingenious, and viciously destructive. The only way we can deal with them is through the protective armour provided by God. Make sure you put it all on!
Our protection for spiritual battles is God’s armour. And…
2. God’s Armour Protects Us Against Our Spiritual Enemy (12)
We need armour because we are engaged in a conflict. We struggle (12a) – literally, we are in a wrestling match, a personal, intense hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.
It’s not a conflict with human forces. We do not struggle against flesh and blood (12b). Flesh and blood speak of humanity in its weakness and mortality (1 Cor. 15:50). If we were fighting against mere men there wouldn’t be the urgency or perhaps even the necessity to put on this armour, for the fight would be much easier, less devious, more visible, identifiable, physical. But our conflict is not with human forces.
We are in a conflict with spiritual forces. We struggle…against rulers, against authorities, against world powers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (12c).
Who are these rulers and authorities and world powers? Verse 12 sets up a sharp contrast - on the one hand, flesh and blood (human enemies) and on the other hand, rulers and authorities (spiritual enemies). This is who our spiritual battle is with, rulers and authorities. From this description and the other references to the same beings in Eph (1:20; 3:10; cf. also 1 Cor. 15:24), I conclude that these are spiritual forces or beings, not human; they are malevolent, evil forces, not good and benevolent.
One question is whether there is a distinction between rulers, authorities and world powers on the one hand and spiritual forces of evil on the other? They appear to be different descriptions of the same evil enemy, descriptions that indicate that they are real spiritual beings who rule over the unseen world, who exercise real power that extends throughout the cosmos. The rulers, authorities and powers then are spiritual forces of evil. These spiritual forces wield cosmic power. They have sweeping power and tyrannical control. They are called rulers, authorities and world powers 6 because they wield the very power that Satan claimed when he offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world.
These spiritual forces are evil. Our enemy is not human but demonic. Our greatest enemy is not the world we see but the world we can’t see - the devil and his demonic empire. We are fighting against evil spirits - the devil and his fallen angels. These spiritual forces are wicked. They operate in and exercise power over the darkness of this age. They operate in the sphere of lies, craftiness, deception, ignorance and sin (i.e. spiritual and moral darkness) among those who “love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” (Jn. 3:19). They operate in the sphere with which we were once associated but from which we are delivered when we trust Christ. “For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8), so that we no longer have “fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11).
When God appeared on earth there was an unprecedented outburst of activity in the realm of darkness. They knew who Jesus was and why he was here: “Have you come to destroy us?” (Lk. 4:34) they asked, and they hated him for it.
These spiritual forces operate in heavenly places - not the heavenly realm where Christ reigns far above all these forces - above all “rule and authority and might and power” (Eph. 1:21). The heavenly realm where Christ reigns supreme is the source of our spiritual blessings. It’s where the saints are seated with Christ (Eph. 2:6). No, these evil spiritual forces operate in a heavenly sphere below that realm but above the earth, what Eph. 2:20 calls the “domain of the air”. That is where these evil forces carry out their clandestine operations.
You may be saying, “Yes, I know that demons and satanic activity is evident in other cultures but not here in our country.” That’s another lie of the devil. He wants you to think you don’t have to be concerned about him and his activities – that’s just something you read about or hear about from people in other countries. Let me be clear: The forces of evil are real and the battle is real right here where we live.
So, don’t just stand there, Paul says, “Do something!” Therefore, take up the whole armour of God (13a). The provision has been made: God has provided us with his armour. The purpose has been explained: we are in a battle and we need protection. The reason is clear - we wrestle with unknown spiritual forces of evil – and the result is anticipated - … so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and, having done all, to stand (13b-c).
In the next article, we’re going to find out how we prepare for spiritual battles and what our spiritual armour actually is. But for now, the exhortation is: “Take it up! Put it on! You’re responsible to put on the armour. Nobody else can do it for you. Don’t rationalize this away. Don’t be complacent about it. Don’t think that this is ‘much ado about nothing’. Take it seriously. Don’t be deceived into thinking that there is no battle.”
William Wilberforce, that great advocate for the abolition of slavery, once said: “When religion is in a state of quiet and prosperity ... the soldiers of the church… will then tend to forget they are at war. Their ardor slackens and their zeal languishes.” 7
John Owen has made an apt comparison: religion in a state of prosperity is like a colony that is long settled in a strange country. It is gradually assimilated in features, demeanor and language to the native inhabitants until at length every vestige of its distinctiveness had died away. Our spiritual battle is the “forgotten war”.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that you don’t need armour. Don’t be deceived into thinking that victory is yours without a battle. You can’t dodge the draft into this war.
We are living in the evil day which will get worse (1 Cor. 7:26; 1 Thess. 5:2-4). It’s the evil day because the devil and his angels are fiercely attacking. They are attacking Christians trying to deceive them into renouncing their faith. They are attacking non-Christians deceiving them that all is well and bringing them under Satan’s power.
The evil day will only end when God throws the devil (the deceiver, Satan) into the abyss. In the meantime, remember the thesis of this article: “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection”. They alone are sufficient to keep us, sufficient for us to withstand in the evil day.
When Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms he was accused of heresy. After being condemned for stating that men are saved by faith in Christ alone, he declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God…here I stand, I cannot do otherwise”. In the end result, it’s not about fighting but about standing. It’s not about what you did but whether you stood firm. Having done all things means having done what we had to do, having prepared for battle, having been fully armed for battle.
Having done all things stand firm in battle to the very end. Paul’s overriding desire for himself was to be found standing firm at the end and not be “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). God hasn’t asked us to do the impossible. Without God’s power we would stumble and fall. Without God’s armour we would be fatally unprotected. But in God’s power and with God’s full armour of protection we can stand against the devil.
We must stand united together as a community of faith because there is strength in unity. When everyone pulls in the same direction there is great power. Let us stand together, therefore, shoulder-to-shoulder against our common enemy.
1 Some details obtained from “The One Year Devotions for People of Purpose,” by Charles Colson, page 712.
2 “Avoiding False Security”, https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1999/december/12147.html, Todd Dugard; references Robert Kiener, “Marvel of the North.
3 See Rom. 15:18-21; 1 Cor. 15:56-57; Heb. 2:14
4 Citation: Michael Boyland in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership, in Christianity Today.
6 This description of evil forces is probably not meant to categorize them but to warn us of the variety and scope of the enemy’s power and resources. Satan claimed ownership of “all the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8-9; Lk. 4:5-7; cf. Luke 11:18) in his temptation of Jesus. Jesus ascribed to Satan the title “ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31; cf. also Jn. 14:30; 16:11; Rev. 12:9; 20:2).
7 Citation: William Wilberforce in Real Christianity. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 4.
Related Topics: Christian Life
10. Standing Together In Victory, Pt. 2: The Preparation For Spiritual Battles (Eph. 6:14-17)Related Media
This article is a continuation of our series on “Living Together in Community”, a sermonic exposition of Ephesians 4 to 6.
We are in a spiritual war, not with human enemies but demonic; not with visible forces but invisible; not with physical enemies but spiritual. The theme of my last article on Eph. 6:10-13 was: “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection.” And we noticed that (1) our power for spiritual battles is the Lord (10) and (2) our protection for spiritual battles is God’s armour (11-12).
We are to be ready for spiritual battle by putting on God’s whole armour, armour that enables us to “stand” firm in the battle. We aren’t called upon to “fight” but to “stand”; to take the stance of the soldier in combat; to stand firm, to resist the enemy, to never retreat or back up.
We cannot stand in our own strength. Those who think they can stand on their own, better take heed lest they fall (1 Cor. 10:12). We stand only in God’s power and protection. We are to stand in the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1); stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13); stand in grace (Rom. 5:2); stand firm in one spirit (Phil. 1:27-28); stand firm in the Lord (Phil. 4:1); stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Col. 4:12); stand strong and fully protected in God’s armour (Eph. 6).
So, we experience spiritual victory in our Christian lives through spiritual power (10) and protection (11-12). In addition, we need spiritual preparation (14-17). In this article we will examine spiritual preparation by understanding what the six pieces of the Christian armour are, their functions, their qualities, and the actions you must take in order to “withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand” (Eph. 6:13).
Our theme for this passage is: “In order to stand for God, we must be prepared with all the armour of God.”
Just as armour is essential for success in physical battle, so spiritual armour is essential for success in spiritual battles. Armour is no good if you don’t know what it is, how to wear it, and what it is for. All of this is described for us in Eph. 6:14-17, where the pieces of armour are described in the order of how actual armour would be put on. First…
I. The Armor Of Truth
Stand, therefore…having girded your waist with truth (14a).
Roman soldiers wore a loose outer tunic, a large square piece of material with holes cut out for the head and arms. To move around quickly and avoid getting all tangled up in the tunic, it needed to be girded around the waist by tucking it into a belt. A girded waist was the mark of one who was prepared for vigorous activity, for service with nothing to hinder or trip them up.
In order to have victory in battle, we must be prepared. We must be like the Israelites who were to eat the Passover with their belt around their waist, sandals on their feet, and staff in their hand (Ex. 12:11).
Don’t be caught unawares, undressed, hindered by things that reduce your spiritual vitality and preparedness. Don’t let the tunic of daily responsibilities and cares entangle your feet, interfere with your service for the Lord, or distract you from the war. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Remove every weight of sin which so easily ensnares us (trips us up, takes us captive).”
Don’t be distracted or held back by the affairs of this world. Don’t let them absorb you so that the things of God take second place. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life so that he may please the one who enlisted him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4).
The belt or girdle represents truth. It’s the first piece of spiritual armour to put on. It is, in fact, part of your undergarments. The truth of God makes us ready for the onslaught of evil. Without the knowledge of God’s truth revealed in his Word we may be “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14); we may give heed to “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1); we may be seduced by the doctrines of the “rulers of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6:12).
Jesus said: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make your free” (Jn. 8:32). It’s God’s truth that frees you from the snares of the devil and releases you into the glorious liberty of Christ.
Furthermore, truth is the characteristic of the new self, the new creature in Christ. To stand in this war against wickedness, as ambassadors of Christ we must be people of honesty, integrity, sincerity. The world is full of lies and deceit because the world is like their father, the devil, who is the father of lies. The only way to counteract lies is with truth. We can only be effective in battle if the enemy recognizes that we are different from them. If they see hypocrisy and deceit in us they will consider us one of them!
Are you known as someone who stands for truth? When people look at you do they see the truth of God in your life? Is that what keeps you on an even keel when everyone else is panicking or depressed? Do unbelievers identify you with uprightness, absolute trustworthiness? Are you the person about whom they say: “I would trust him / her with my life”? If not, then what power do you have in the battle?
Kim Duk-Soo will never forget November 20, 1950. That was the day Communist troops found him hiding with his father in a root cellar. Along with hundreds of thousands of other Christians, Kim made up the human wave escaping from the oppressive communist regime of North Korea for the free South. “When we heard the soldiers coming, I was sure we would be killed,” says Kim, his eyes filling with tears. “My Daddy told me we could not tell a lie to save our lives.”
Kim’s father had pastored the same church for 42 years. He had helped his wife hide their children by covering them with rice bags and dirt. But after two days of hiding, Kim uncovered himself. Just then, Communist troops approached the house. Kim and his father ran to the back yard and hid in the root cellar. “I told God I would serve him all my life if I got out of the root cellar alive,” he said. The soldiers found Kim and his father and took them off to a makeshift prison to be executed the next morning.
That evening, a captain approached Kim. “Are you a Christian?” he asked. For a fleeting moment, life for a lie seemed the only logical way to go. But the young boy remembered his father’s instruction. “I am a Christian,” Kim said. The captain drew closer and whispered, “I am a Christian too. I used to be a Sunday school teacher before the war. You must escape tonight. I will help you.”
Kim fled that night, having to leave his father under heavy guard awaiting his eventual death. Young Kim reached an American army base, where he taught himself to play the organ in the chapel at the base. Now for 30 years, he has played the organ at First Presbyterian in Taegu where 2,000 Koreans worship. 1
That’s the result of faithfulness to the truth, having no gaps in your armour, standing firm for God in the face of conflict. So, to stand firm for God, you need to be prepared with the armour of truth. The second action we must take is to be prepared with…
II. The Armour Of Righteousness
Stand therefore…having put on the breastplate of righteousness (14b).
The breastplate is the piece of armour that protects the body on every side. If you’ve ever studied some of the outstanding works of poetry in school, you will know Alfred Lord Tennyson’s well known poem about the Balaclava charge of the British to certain death called “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
Half a league, half a league, half a league onward,
Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’ Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew someone had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply, their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them, volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell, boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death, rode the six hundred.”
That’s the bravery and confidence with which we can stand in battle despite the cannons of Satan’s artillery on every side.
We are protected by the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness is the character of God himself. God is righteous because he is perfectly upright, just. He always does what is right, never acting contrary to his own standard and character, nor to what he has said or promised. That’s what righteousness is - perfect consistency with God’s character, being just, taking right action, thinking right thoughts.
The righteousness with which we are to be prepared is practical righteousness. Not the imputed righteousness that we received from God at conversion (all Christians have that righteousness), but the ethical righteousness of an upright and holy walk before God. This is the righteousness that stems from a life lived in obedience to the Word of God, in holiness before God, in the fullness of the Spirit of God.
This righteousness covers our spiritual body so that nothing can penetrate. It’s “the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left”, Paul says in 2 Cor. 6:7. It protects us against attack from all sides, front and back.
Is your life characterized by practical righteousness? There is much unrighteous living among Christians through conformity to the world, compromise with the world’s system and standards, sinful habits, un-Christlike behaviour, thinking, and attitudes.
Strive to live righteously! Stand firm in the godly armour of holy living, a devout life, moral integrity. Confess sin when it occurs, keep short accounts with God. Live in the conscious presence of God every moment of every day. Put into practice righteous conduct that you have learned from Christ. Don’t let Christianity be a charade or a ritual of going to church and giving to charity. But let your Christianity spring from the roots of conviction about the horror of sin, about repentance, about God’s holiness, about the kind of life that’s necessary to engage in conflict with evil.
Stand firm with the breastplate of righteousness. Don’t leave home without it or you may be hit with a lethal blow. “Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13).
Only by holy living are we protected against Satan’s attacks. Be sure of this, his entire occupation is attacking you. That’s why he is called by various names or titles. He is Satan, our adversary, our opposer. He is the adversary of God and Christ. He is the adversary of God’s people. He is the adversary of the whole human race. We can expect opposition every time we make a move toward God. 1 Pet. 5:8 says, “…your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”
He is the Devil (diabolos), the accuser, a slanderer. If you’re a Christian, the devil is your accuser. He accuses you to God (Job 1). He is called the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He says, “Look at him / her! Look what they’ve done. How bad is that! They can’t possibly be a Christian. They can’t possibly go to heaven.” That’s Satan accusing you to God.
And he accuses God to you (Gen 3). He says, “Has God really said, you will not die? Is God really all-loving and all–powerful? If he is so good, how come he allows sorrow and death? If he is omnipotent, how come he doesn’t stop all the sin going on in the world?”
In addition, he accuses you to others; he accuses others to you; and he accuses you to yourself: “I’m no good. God can’t use me. In fact, God doesn’t love me. I might as well give up.”
Remember, Satan is the tempter. He tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He tempts Christians into sin and away from God, trying to get them to fail, be weak.
He is the deceiver, the father of lies (Jn 8:44). He deceived Adam and Eve and he continues to deceive human beings the same way today. But John 8 says that the truth shall set you free!
He is the destroyer (Apollyon). Notice a number of ways in which Satan destroys:
1. He destroys through distraction. Someone has said, he loves weapons of mass distraction. Perhaps it’s your job, your hobby etc. There is a whole lot of distraction going on - worries, cares, riches, pleasures of this life. Distractions that keep us from being fruitful for God.
2. He destroys also through division. It’s so easy to divide the people of God and rob us of our power for God.
3. He destroys through discouragement. Discouragement is one of his primary tools in his arsenal, causing Christians to give up, stop fighting, concede to the enemy.
Christians can live in victory over our enemy, the devil, but we need to be spiritually prepared with all the armour of God. Jesus said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (Jn.10:9-10).
What a contrast between their missions! Jesus saves; the devil destroys. Jesus imparts life; the devil kills. Jesus gives; the devil steals. Jesus said of the devil that “he was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44). But Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (Jn. 14:6). That’s the gospel!
What a contrast between their characters! Jesus is the truth; Satan is a liar, no truth in him. Jesus is the life; Satan is a murderer. Jesus is the way to God; Satan is the barrier to God.
Satan loves to attack you in the area of righteousness. That’s his primary method of taking Christians out of the battle. By distracting them from holy living he neutralizes them, stops them dead in their tracks. You can’t battle against evil powers if you tolerate evil in your own life. Make sure you have on your breastplate of righteousness.
To stand firm for God you must be prepared with the armour of truth, the armour of righteousness, and, thirdly, to stand firm for God you need to be prepared with…
III. The Armor Of The Gospel
Stand therefore…having shod your feet w/the preparation of the gospel of peace (15).
Good footwear protects your feet, especially when you stand on hard ground or step on something sharp. Thick-soled boots protect the soles of your feet against weariness, cuts, and blisters. Today you can buy footwear for all kinds of activity - tennis shoes, golf shoes, hiking shoes, steel-toed work boots etc. Each type of footwear is designed to help your feet in a particular activity.
Christians need to wear spiritual footwear for spiritual warfare. Don’t be caught barefoot! You won’t be ready for attack. You’ll be unprepared and vulnerable. You won’t be able to stand for long. It takes good footwear to stand in one place for a long time. If you don’t have your spiritual footwear on, you may stumble, your feet and legs will get tired, and all your other armour will be useless.
Our spiritual footwear is the preparation of the gospel of peace. Notice it isn’t the proclamation of the gospel of peace but the preparation. It’s a matter of readiness - readiness to stand firm in the day of battle, a readiness which is derived from the gospel of peace. We can stand against the onslaught of the devil because the gospel of peace provides a firm footing for us. That’s our eternal security - we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1), which nothing can shake, not even the powers of hell.
Peace generates security and confidence in the face of any enemy. No matter what may transpire, the most important relationship is secure. No matter what may transpire, our eternal destiny is promised. We stand in the security of our relationship with God, that we are one with him and he with us. That’s peace!
The burden of sin has been removed and we stand in complete unity with God himself because the gospel of peace has reconciled us to God. That’s peace!
He has “reconciled us to God in one body through the cross” (2:16). The gospel of peace is a gospel of reconciliation by removing the sin-barrier between us and God in the death of Christ. That’s the gospel we preach: “We are ambassadors for Christ… (so) we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).
The gospel of peace assures us that God is for us, “And if God be for us, who can be against us?…In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31…)
Just as God fought for Gideon (Judges 7), so he fights for us. We can stand against the onslaught of the devil because peace delivers us from the great burden of sin. The weight has been removed, we are prepared for conflict, nothing is holding us back.
In order to stand firm in battle you have to be prepared. And Christians prepare by knowing their armour and by taking certain actions. As we have already noticed, you need to be prepared firstly by the armour of truth; secondly, by the armour of righteousness; thirdly, by the armour of the gospel, and, fourthly, we need to be prepared to stand firm for God with…
IV. The Armour Of Faith
Stand therefore…having taken up the shield of faith (16a).
This kind of shield was a large shield, 4’ wide x 2’ long, generally made of wood covered with leather soaked in water. The enemy would often attack with arrows whose tips had been dipped in pitch and set on fire. The shield not only protected against the sharp points of the arrows but the wet leather extinguished the flames.
The shield protected the vital organs of the body, particularly the heart, lungs, and intestines. In the ancient world the heart was equated with the mind, the place where decisions and choices were made. And the bowels (intestines) were considered to be the seat of the emotions.
These are two areas Satan regularly and viciously attacks - the mind and the heart. He fills your mind with wrong thoughts, false doctrines, confusion about issues, the cares of this life that choke you, and with moral filth that defiles you. And all of this is designed to confuse you, to generate more questions than answers so that you doubt your faith.
Satan also attacks your heart with perverted feelings, immoral choices, and defiling lusts. His object is to replace upright living with immoral living, contentment with greed, and love with hate. He tries to lower the standard of holiness and make us more and more comfortable with sin.
Our faith is the shield with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one (16b). The shield of faith will protect your vital organs in the day of battle - your heart is protected and your intestines are shielded. When the fiery darts of Satan’s attacks are hurled at you, you can extinguish them with the shield of faith.
So, take up your shield of faith in God! Trust God for daily protection in battle: “He is a shield to all who trust in him” (Ps. 18:30). Trust the faithful promises of God’s Word. Trust God’s resources for standing in the day of battle - his faithfulness, strength, protection, trustworthiness.
Take up your shield of faith in Christ! Trust Christ to preserve you in the joy of your salvation. Trust Christ’s power to protect you, body, soul, and spirit. Trust Him with such deep, abiding conviction that it extinguishes anything the enemy throws at you. “Who is he that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn. 5:5). When fiery darts / missiles come from the enemy, pick up your shield of faith.
Satan attacks you through the problems of life. You don’t know where to turn. You don’t how you’re going to deal with financial stresses, health worries, marriage difficulties, and the like. You find yourself entertaining sinful thoughts, selfish desires, immoral passions, impure conduct.
Satan attacks you through your trust in God. He questions the existence of God and his reliability. He generates doubt about what you believe - your faith in Christ, your eternal security. He encourages you to despair of God, to give up on him. He infiltrates your mind with false teachings and fills you with fear.
In May 1995, Randy Reid, a 34-year-old construction worker, was welding on top of a nearly completed water tower outside Chicago. According to writer Melissa Ramsdell, Reid unhooked his safety gear to reach for some pipes when a metal cage slipped and bumped the scaffolding he stood on. The scaffolding tipped, and Reid lost his balance. He fell 110 feet, landing face down on a pile of dirt, just missing rocks and construction debris. A fellow worker called 911. When paramedics arrived, they found Reid conscious, moving, and complaining of a sore back. Apparently the fall didn’t cost Reid his sense of humor! As paramedics carried him on a backboard to the ambulance, Reid had one request: “Don’t drop me.” Doctors later said Reid came away from the accident with just a bruised lung. 2
Sometimes we resemble that construction worker. God protects us from harm in a 110-foot fall, but we’re still nervous about three-foot heights. Satan fills us with irrational fears but faith in God will preserve us. He never changes. He saved us from hell and death and he protects us from the smaller dangers we face each day. We need to trust his protective care by being prepared with the shield of faith that he has provided.
When Satan attacks, you can’t deal with it alone. So, take up the shield of faith which can blunt Satan’s attacks and quench those fiery missiles. No wonder it says: …above all else, taking the shield of faith. This is the primary piece of armour. There is protection in the shield of faith like no other: “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:4).
What do Christians most frequently seem to give up when Satan’s attacks are vicious and prolonged? Their faith! That’s where you are most vulnerable. You think that by giving up, Satan’s attacks will stop, but that’s not the solution. The solution is to “resist (the devil) steadfast in faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). That’s our greatest protection, for “he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him… and we know that we are of God and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn. 5:18-19).
David took refuge behind the shield of faith. With five smooth stones and a sling, he approached the giant and said: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield; but I come to you, in the name of the Lord” (1 Sam. 17:45). That’s the shield of faith! That’s trust in the Lord!
So, be prepared for battle with the armour of faith. And then the fifth action is to be prepared with…
V. The Armour Of Salvation
And take… the helmet of salvation (17a).
The commanding officer gave each soldier his helmet. All the Roman soldier had to do was accept it and wear it. The helmet protected the head from the blows of the enemy’s swords. The Christian’s helmet is our salvation. It is God’s gift to those who receive it through faith in Christ. The helmet of salvation performs two primary functions.
First, the helmet of salvation proclaims our identity. It is a banner on our heads for all to see. It identifies us as belonging to God, that we’re fighting in God’s army, we are on God’s side in this spiritual war. It identifies us as Christians - we’re born-again people; we’re saved by the blood of Christ; we’re on our way to heaven; we’re waiting for the return of Christ at any moment.
Second, the helmet of salvation protects our minds. It protects our minds from Satan’s attacks; attacks that generate doubt, uncertainty, and scepticism; attacks that question our security in Christ; attacks against the foundations of our faith. The helmet of salvation protects our minds concerning what we know to be true. We know that God has rescued us from the tyranny of Satan and given us liberty in Christ. We know that we’re forgiven. We know that God loves us with an unchanging love. We know that Jesus Christ is God manifest in flesh. We know that the Bible is God’s Word and that it is completely trustworthy. We know that the Holy Spirit indwells us and has sealed our salvation for eternity.
The helmet of salvation is worn on the head to proclaim who we are (our identity) and to protect what we know. Satan is obsessed with dealing us blows to the head. He strikes at the very foundation of our faith by challenging our knowledge of God’s Word; by casting doubt on our eternal security in Christ; by plaguing us with discouragement and doubt; by pointing out our failures and sins. There is never a day when Satan’s attacks stop. That’s why we need to always wear “the whole armour of God” until the end of the battle (2 Tim. 4:7). Satan attacks us when we are on a spiritual high as he did Elijah - right after his great victory at Mt. Carmel – and made him suicidal. And he attacks us when we are in the spiritual gutter as he did Job. But Job stood firm: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15),
The helmet of salvation gives us confidence, confidence concerning the outcome of the battle, confidence that that victory is ours in Christ. It protects us from giving up the fight. It strengthens us to continue on no matter what. It assures us that the good work that God has begun in us he will complete (Phil 1:6).
That’s why we need to wear the helmet of salvation because in the heat of the battle we need to be strong and of good courage; because in the heat of battle we need to stand firm – not back up or retreat; because in the heat of battle we need to be able to “endure affliction as a good soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3). That’s when we need to make sure the whole armour of God is strapped on tight.
MSNBC.com reported on John McCain’s return to where he was imprisoned as a POW in Vietnam. During his captivity, McCain twice tried to hang himself, using his shirt as a noose, but was caught both times by the guards, who then beat him. “I couldn’t control my despair,” McCain wrote in his autobiography. “All my pride was lost, and I doubted I would ever stand up to any man again. Nothing could save me.” 3
Sometimes you may feel like that in your spiritual battles. But the helmet of your salvation will preserve you from discouragement and despair and doubt . The helmet of salvation will preserve you in moments of doubt, even when things look hopeless, when Satan casts doubt on the truth of God; when he questions your salvation, suggesting it is misplaced trust; when He undermines God’s goodness, power, trustworthiness; when he whispers that life is hopeless.
That’s when you need the helmet of salvation. That’s when you need to boldly display your unswerving faith in God. That’s when you need to quote those confidence verses that you memorized in Sunday school. “These things I have written to you…that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13).”I give to them eternal life and they shall never perish” (Jn. 10:28-29). “Nothing can separate us from the love of God…” (Rom. 8:38-39).
So, boldly wear the helmet of “salvation”, a salvation that was secured in the past; a salvation that is being worked out in the present; and a salvation that will be completed in the future. Our helmet is the “hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8), that hope that motivates us to press on when the going gets tough.
Be prepared for spiritual battle with the armour of truth, the armour of righteousness, the armour of the gospel, the armour of faith, the armour of salvation, and, lastly, by be prepared with…
VI. The Armour Of God’s Word
And take…the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (17b).
This type of sword was short and sharp. It hung from the Roman soldiers belt in a sheath and was used in close combat. The believer’s spiritual sword is the Word of God, the Word which God spoke through his holy prophets and apostles and which we now speak through the gospel. The sword is the Word of God that is made effective by the Spirit and derives its character and origin from the Spirit of God. The Spirit gives the Word its power, its sharpness, its penetration, its application.
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance,” Paul says in 1 Thess. 1:5. The Spirit of God reveals the message that issues from God, a message that separates all people, a message of salvation and judgement - salvation to those who receive it and judgement to those who reject it.
The Word of God is a sharp sword that divides “soul from spirit…and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It cuts to the quick of the conscience and it exposes the hidden recesses of our sinful hearts.
The sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon. It is offensive when we use it against Satan. We use it against him when we preach the gospel for the conviction of those who are lost, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). “In him you also trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (1:13). “The word of the Lord endures forever. This is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25).
It is also a defensive weapon when Satan attacks us. Jesus used it to defend himself against Satan’s temptations by quoting it. If you don’t know the Word of God you can’t use it to defend yourself. If you’ve never read it or memorized it you will never be able to recall it when you need it. You have no excuse for not knowing the Scriptures.
Victory is assured when we wield the sword of God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit. God still speaks powerfully through his Word revealing the truth of the human condition, persuading people to receive Christ for salvation, warning people of the horrors of hell.
When God speaks, Satan cringes in fear and is put to flight. When we speak the Word of God, Satan also cringes because we announce that he was defeated at the cross and we have been set free. Be armed with the sword of Scripture! Martin Luther once said: “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or cardinal without it.” 4
The theme of this article is: “In order to stand for God, we must be prepared with all the armour of God.” Is there anything stopping from you standing firm for God? Have you put on the whole armour of God? It’s up to you. God has provided it but you have to be prepared by putting it on. If you don’t put the armour on you’re vulnerable! This is a war of hand-to-hand combat against a deadly, powerful, spiritual enemy, an enemy who operates in heavenly realms.
Make sure you have all the armour on! You need it. Gird yourself with the belt of truth. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Prepare your feet with the gospel of peace. Take up the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Make sure there are no gaps in your armour. If any pieces are missing, it’s not God’s fault: it’s because you haven’t taken the action required to wear it. If anything is missing, you’ve got a gap in your armour which may expose a vital organ.
Will you make sure first of all, that you know the peace of God and that you’re covered with the righteousness of Christ? Second, will you make sure that you are immersed in God’s truth, that you are known as a person of truth, protected front, back, and sides with practical righteousness (holiness of life), and that you stand on the firm foundation of the gospel of peace. That’s how you can stand firm for God in the evil day and having done all, to stand.
When I used to teach at the Stephen Olford Centre for Biblical Preaching, I got to know a beloved brother who worked there. As I understand the story, a mother used to watch her girls play ball after school at a certain ball field. After a while, she noticed that a man was always there. Finally she discovered that he was homeless – he lived at the concession stand in the ball field. Eventually he came to the Olford Centre where he ran errands, picked people up at the airport etc. He would do anything for you without being asked. He gave me little tokens of his care and affection – like a pen, or an insulated lunch bag to hold the snacks he bought for me to eat on the plane ride home. If you called him to ask for something, he would usually say: “I’ve got you covered pard’ner.”
Make sure you’re covered with the whole armour of God! Are your spiritual organs protected against Satan’s fiery darts by the shield of faith? Is your head (mind) protected against the sharp sword of the enemy? Are you confident in the knowledge of your security in Christ? Are you strong in your motivation for the cause of Christ? Do you hold tightly in your hand the sharp sword of the Spirit? Are you using it to defend your beliefs and to convict unbelievers?
If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, aren’t you afraid? Don’t you tremble to think that you are so vulnerable?
Colin Chapman, in The Case for Christianity, quotes Ugandan bishop Festo Kivengere’s account of the 1973 execution by firing squad of three men from his diocese:
“February 10 began as a sad day for us in Kabale. People were commanded to come to the stadium and witness the execution. Death permeated the atmosphere. A silent crowd of about three thousand was there to watch. I had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died, and two of my fellow ministers were with me. They brought the men in a truck and unloaded them. They were handcuffed and their feet were chained. The firing squad stood at attention. As we walked into the center of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage?
“We approached them from behind, and as they turned to look at us, what a sight! Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. Before we could say anything, one of them burst out: ‘Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept him into their lives as I did.’
“The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands which rattled their handcuffs. I felt that what I needed to do was to talk to the soldiers, not to the condemned. So I translated what the men had said into a language the soldiers understood. The military men were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. They were so dumbfounded that they forgot to put the hoods over the men’s faces!
“The three faced the firing squad standing close together. They looked toward the people and began to wave, handcuffs and all. The people waved back. Then shots were fired, and the three were with Jesus.
“We stood in front of them, our own hearts throbbing with joy, mingled with tears. It was a day never to be forgotten. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of Kigezi District and beyond, so that there was an upsurge of life in Christ, which challenges death and defeats it.”
Those men, though new believers in Christ, were wearing the whole armor of God. Their waists were girded with the belt of truth. Their chests were covered with the breastplate of righteousness. Their feet were shod with the gospel of peace. Their hearts were shielded by their faith. On their heads they proudly wore the helmet of salvation, the truth of which beamed from their faces and out of their mouths. And, even in death, they tightly grasped the sword of God’s word. That’s the kind of protection we can enjoy too!5
If your faith is weak, read the faithful promises of God’s Word. Get plugged into a Bible study where your faith can be nourished. If you’re not sure about your salvation, talk to any of the leaders in your church. Let them explain it to you simply and clearly. If you aren’t regularly reading your Bible, start a daily program right now. Discipline yourself to read it, study it, and memorize it.
Don’t be left unprotected in the hour of battle or you may be seriously wounded. You may join the casualties in the spiritual battle and be no good for God. Don’t try standing on your own, it won’t work. We can’t stand on our own. We need the protection of God’s armour. So, let’s put it on now and be fully prepared for battle.
1 Citation: Lyn Cryderman, Christianity Today, Nov. 20, 1987, submitted by Don Maddox, Corona, CA.
2 Citation: Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4, in Christianity Today
3 Citation: “McCain Struggles with the Past,” MSNBC.com (4-28-00), in Christianity Today
4 Citation: Martin Luther, “Martin Luther--The Early Years,” Christian History, no. 34, in Christianity Today.
5 Citation: Ray Stamps, Los Gatos, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 1, in Christianity Today
Related Topics: Christian Life
11. Standing Together In Victory, Pt. 3: Perseverance In Spiritual Battles (Eph. 6:18-20)Related Media
Wearing the proper armour in battle is essential but what good is it if you don’t know how to use it or what to do with it? Wearing armour does not of itself assure victory. To be victorious we need strength, protection, and wisdom - wisdom to know how to act and think in battle; wisdom to listen to our Commander and understand His tactics. All of this we derive from persevering in all the power of prayer.
Prayer is the fuel that makes our armour effective and useful. Prayer is the link between God’s armour and God himself, between God’s provision and his person, between God’s care and his commands. Prayer is the source of wisdom and power in battle. Satan’s strategies in battle are cunning; our strategies are spiritual, prayerful. Prayer is the expression of our dependence upon God for direction, wisdom, and courage - that’s how we are able to persevere, to “stand in the evil day”.
In order to stand firm for God, we need to be spiritually empowered and protected (10-18), we need to be spiritually prepared (14-17), and we need to persevere in all the power of prayer (18-20). Standing for God requires constant and vigilant prayer. In particular, when we take hold of the sword of the Spirit (Word of God), we must do so in conjunction with the power of prayer if we want spiritual victory. The combination of the Scriptures (the Word of God directed to men) and prayer (the word of men directed to God) can withstand any enemy. This section of our passage teaches us that “Continuous and vigilant prayer is the key to spiritual vitality and victory”.
A doctoral student at Princeton, 1952, once asked: "What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?" Visiting lecturer, Albert Einstein, replied: "Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer." 1
Notice six important characteristics of true prayer. First…
I. The Variety Of Prayer
…praying with all prayer and petition (18a)
Prayer refers to prayer in general, including the adoration of God, confession of sin, profession of faith, thanksgiving. Petition refers to specific prayer - entreaty, supplication. If we sign a petition, we are entreating someone in authority to act in a certain way, to make a decision or to prevent something from happening. We plead for specific benefits or needs. That’s petition.
Used together, prayer and petition encompasses all forms of prayer - adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, general requests and specific requests for people and problems. The injunction is that we must pray using the complete variety of prayer, every type of prayer.
The first characteristic of prayer, then, is the variety of prayer. The second is…
II. The Frequency Of Prayer
…praying always (18b)
This means praying in all seasons, at all times, in every period of life. Don’t just pray when you’re in trouble, or when you’ve failed, or when you want a “favour” from God, or when you don’t know which way to turn. Don’t just pray when you’re happy, or when you’ve just won a spiritual battle, or when you feel close to God. Don’t just pray at certain seasons of the year – like Christmas, thanksgiving, Easter, or on Sunday.
There is never a time when you do not need to pray. “God is my witness…that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Rom. 1:9; Phil. 1:4; Col. 1:3; 4:12; 2 Thess. 1:11). Like the early church we are to continue “steadfastly” in prayer (Rom. 12:12; cf. Acts 2:42). We must pray with regular devotion, “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We must pray at all times of the “night and day” (2 Tim. 1:3).
Our prayer life is what generates our relationship with God. Spirituality is not a function of what you know but who you know. You may know a lot about the Bible by reading it and studying it, but you can’t truly know the God of the Bible without regular prayer. Knowing God is the key to deepening your spirituality. Intimacy with God is the sure sign of a spiritual person. And this intimacy with, and knowledge of, God stems from your prayer life coupled with your study of the Word.
When we pray we get to know God, we commune with him. Then our desire for God and our love for his Word deepens because the more we know him, the more we grow spiritually. That’s the motto of my ministry at the Institute for Biblical Preaching, “to deepen people’s desire for God and love for his Word”.
Praying always doesn’t mean formal prayer all day long. It’s not about bowing to the east five times a day. True prayer isn’t about ritual or repetition of words (Matt. 6:7). True prayer is an abiding consciousness of God’s presence, living in the awareness of God, making our whole life a matter of walking with God, lifting up our situations and decisions to God throughout the day, thanking God throughout the day, an attitude of prayer in our reactions, thoughts, and motives. In other words, our whole life is a looking to God – “setting our mind on things above not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
The third characteristic of prayer is…
III. The Means Of Prayer
…praying in the Spirit (18c)
The Word of God came through the Spirit of God and our prayers go back to God through the Spirit of God. “For through Him (Christ) we ... have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).
To pray in the Spirit is to pray in harmony with the Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27); to pray through the intercession of the Spirit (Rom. 8:15, 16); to pray as the Spirit prays – to have our requests, thoughts, desires, line up with his and so to be in tune with God’s will; to pray with the Spirit’s help; to submit to the Spirit, depend on Him, be yielded to Him.
Prayers in the Spirit are inspired prayers, guided prayers, effective prayers, prayers according to God’s will because the Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
To be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) you must pray in the Spirit. One commentator has said: “Those who are united in their access to the Father through the Spirit (2:18), who are built into God’s dwelling place in the Spirit (2:22), and who are being filled with the Spirit (5:18) can and should pray constantly in and through the Spirit.” 2
The variety of prayer, the frequency, the means, and fourthly…
Iv. The Manner Of Prayer
…to this same end, being watchful in all perseverance and petition (18d)
To what end? To the end of praying always and in the Spirit. To that end, we must be watchful (alert) in prayer.
If you want to pray always, you need to be watchful in prayer. If you’re not alert in prayer you might fall asleep spiritually. That’s why Jesus urged the disciples to be alert, watchful: “Stay here and watch…(but) he came and found them sleeping… Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Mk. 14:34, 37-38). How could they pray for him in his hour of trial if they were asleep? How could they pray for strength, grace, encouragement if they were asleep? How could they be consistently in prayer if they were sleeping? How could they enter into his suffering? How could they be on the alert for danger? How could they be aware of his needs? How could they prayer for his comfort? What Jesus wanted more than anything else at that time was for his nearest and dearest friends to be alert in prayer, to be watchful in prayer, to persevere in prayer.
If you want to pray in the Spirit, you need to be alert in prayer. Then, you’ll be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You’ll be aware of the needs around you. Your spiritual radar will be active. So, how do we keep alert and watchful in prayer?
We keep alert in prayer through perseverance. Jesus taught us to “pray always and not lose heart” (Lk. 18:1). It’s easy to lose heart, to lose motivation in the battle, to become discouraged and give up. When we lose spiritual motivation, one of the first things that disappears from our lives is prayer.
Don’t become sloppy about your prayer life. Don’t think you can pray effectively after you fall into bed at night. You can’t. Your mind will wander and you’ll become sleepy. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t pray in bed - I often pray during the night and early in the morning in bed. But it should not replace disciplined, alert prayer. Be disciplined in prayer. Set aside particular times for concentrated prayer and maintain a constant attitude of prayer throughout the day.
Perseverance in prayer is steadfast devotion to prayer (Col. 4:2), constant, persistent, and purposeful prayer. “Be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Pet. 4:7).
“Continue earnestly in prayer; being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
We keep alert in prayer through perseverance. And…
We keep alert in prayer through petition. Petition is heartfelt supplication, pleading, earnest intercession about something that weighs heavily on your heart and mind.
Many Christians don’t become serious about prayer until they have a serious problem. Then their prayer life becomes much more focused and earnest and intense, fervent. But we should always pray in the same manner, not so much for ourselves but for others, petitioning God for the needs of others, interceding on their behalf.
We need to be constantly petitioning God for victory over temptations, for forgiveness of those who have wronged us, for reconciliation with those who are estranged from us, for holiness of life amid all the temptations around us, for salvation for unbelievers before it’s too late, for spiritual protection, strength, and courage in spiritual battles.
One of our most pressing prayer concerns ought to be spiritual warfare, that we “stand firm” in the “whole armour of God”, that our missionaries be protected against evil spirits, that our Christian school teachers be protected from Satanic attacks, that our church be preserved in spiritual wellbeing and unity.
V. The Object Of Prayer
…for all the saints (18e)
All the saints means the church (both Jews and Gentiles), all who have been united in one body, the church (cf. Eph. 1:15; 3:18; 4:4). Prayer for all the saints is the practical expression of the unity that has been formed by the Holy Spirit between all believers. We are to pray continuously for all the saints because they are engaged in spiritual warfare, in the process of which they experience struggles and victories, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. To petition God on behalf of other believers is a privilege that every believer can and should participate in. It requires no spiritual gift, just a heart for God’s people.
If you love God’s people, you’ll care about their spiritual health. You won’t be absorbed with yourself but with others. Their spiritual welfare will be your concern. You will rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).
How much do you care about God’s people? It is directly related to the amount you pray for them. Praying for others also has a direct benefit to you. It takes your attention away from your own circumstances and onto others. Apparently, “before the onset of the Spanish civil war, Spain was experiencing such an epidemic of neuroses that psychiatrists could hardly handle them all. However, despite the devastation and horror of the war, it had the unexpected effect of curing many of Spain’s thousands of neurotics. When they became concerned about the welfare of their families, friends, and country instead of their own, their own anxieties disappeared.” Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones writes: “These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety” – an anxiety that reached beyond their own selfish welfare. 3
When we think less about ourselves and more about others, it has a spiritually therapeutic effect. Through intercessory prayer, we petition God to strengthen the weak, to stimulate their spiritual growth, to meet their spiritual, physical, and psychological needs. That should be the object of our prayer.
VI. Specifics Of Prayer
Pray for individuals by name. That’s why Paul says: (Pray) for me! (19a). “ I need your prayer support,” he says. When you pray, don’t just say: “Lord, bless your people. Heal those who are sick. Amen” Name them, visualize them, speak of them personally and affectionately. Pray for their needs specifically, for their problems, worries, obstacles, burdens, sorrows, victories, joys. And pray accurately; know what you’re praying about.
Pray especially for those who labour in the gospel. Satan wants to close their mouths so that they do not speak for God. Paul says here: (Pray) for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly as I ought to speak” (19-20).
Let me suggest four specific things to pray for those in ministry and leadership:
1. Pray that they will have the words and opportunities to speak at the right time.
2. Pray that they will have the courage to speak the gospel boldly.
3. Pray that nothing will prevent them from serving Christ - not even prison - that they will act as ambassadors for Christ even in chains.
4. Pray that they will fulfill their obligations in ministry, to speak as I ought to speak. It’s a duty. It’s compelling.
Their success for God is directly related to our prayers for them. Do you want the gospel to reach the uttermost parts of the earth? Then pray for those you know who are engaged in this task. Do you want victory for the ambassadors of Christ? Then pray for them in their spiritual warfare. This doesn’t just apply to missionaries in foreign lands but to all who are engaged in ministry, particularly those in leadership. The leaders of our churches are very susceptible to the enemy’s attack. Who do you think Satan is going to go after in order to weaken the war effort? Church leaders!
In his book, “Dying for Change,” Leith Anderson recounts an important incident in the American Civil War. In 1777 the battle of Saratoga was fought. Some believe that this skirmish was the turning point of the Revolutionary War. On the eve of the battle, patriot troops recognized that the British regiment had more soldiers, more gunpowder, more muskets, and more gun shot. Daniel Morgan of New Hampshire was commanding a ragtag group of farmers known as “Morgan’s Rifles.” He met with his men the night before the battle, and said to them, “Don’t waste your shot on those who fight for six pence a day. Save your shot for epaulet men.” Morgan’s point was simple. Patriot troops could not afford to waste their limited shot on the ordinary solder. Instead they were to target the officers, the ones with the epaulets on their shoulders.
This strategy devastated the British. By the second day of the battle the British officer ranks were decimated. The British regiment still had plenty of men, fire power and supplies, yet they surrendered because the principle is true: as goes the leader, so goes the battle.
This illustrates what is happening in churches today. Leaders are being taken down right and left by the enemy. Programs and human strategies do not counteract the roaring lion who seeks to devour the officers of this spiritual battle. Ministry today is a war zone. “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” (Zech. 13:7). So, pray for your church leaders and your spiritual mentors, for those who preach the gospel, for those who teach in Bible Colleges and Christian schools. It’s not easy.
What could be more difficult to speak for Christ than prison? Imprisonment for your faith would tend to make you quiet. If you think your situation is difficult for witnessing what if you were in prison because of the gospel (as Paul was). But it didn’t change Paul’s view: he was an ambassador in chains (20). Isn’t that a contradiction in terms - an ambassador in chains? An ambassador is supposed to be free, to enjoy diplomatic immunity. But he was an ambassador in chains because his imprisonment was an opportunity to further the gospel as a representative of Christ.
Notice, Paul didn’t ask for prayer for his release from prison but that God would empower and use him effectively in prison, that he would boldly speak as he ought to speak. And he did speak boldly so that the guards heard the gospel and as a result other believers were inspired to speak boldly (cf. Phil. 1:12-14).
If you want to be victorious in spiritual battles - overcoming sin, growing in your relationship with Christ – then persevere in all the power of prayer. The truth is what theme of this section: “Continuous and vigilant prayer is the key to spiritual vitality and victory”. We all know that, but we have to admit that sometimes it’s hard to maintain because our spiritual enemy tries to prevent it.
In order to stand for God, we need to wear all God’s armour. Prayer is a vital part of that armour for fighting spiritual battles. If you don’t put it on, you’re vulnerable. This is a war of hand-to-hand combat against a deadly enemy – powerful, spiritual, operating in heavenly spheres. So, make sure you have all the armour on.
Are your spiritual organs protected by the shield of faith? Is your mind protected by the helmet of salvation? Are your feet protected by the shoe leather of the gospel? Is your heart protected by the breastplate of righteousness? Do you wear a belt of truth around your waist? Do you fearlessly wield the sword of the Spirit, the word of God? If you don’t have all these on you’ve got gaps in your armour.
In ancient China, the people desired security from the barbaric, invading hordes to the north. To get this protection, they built the Great Wall of China. It's 30 feet high, 18 feet thick, and more than 1,500 miles long! The Chinese goal was to build an absolutely impenetrable defence - too high to climb over, too thick to break down, and too long to go around. But during the first hundred years of the wall's existence China was successfully invaded three times. It wasn't the wall's fault. During all three invasions, the barbaric hordes never climbed over the wall or broke it down and they never went around it. They simply bribed a gatekeeper and then marched right in through an open door. The security of the wall was penetrated because of a separation between truth and practice. The truth was that the wall could provide ample protection - that is how it was planned and what they claimed. The practice was, however, that there were gaps in the wall that made them vulnerable. 4
Don’t let there be any gaps in your spiritual wall, your spiritual armour. Make sure that your practice of truth aligns with your profession of truth. Ensure that there are no gaps in your armour of truth which the enemy can penetrate.
If your church is to be a healthy, growing, vibrant church, leading people to Christ, baptizing believers, training people to serve the Lord, impacting your community, manifesting joy and unity, then prayer is the key (both corporate and private prayer). So, you need to commit to praying for the pastors, the elders, the deacons, the property, the congregation, your visitors. Why not become part of a focused prayer effort of your church by praying with a group around the building and grounds, by praying with others over the pews in the sanctuary, by praying for the pastor on Saturday night and Sunday morning, by praying for the Spirit to protect your young people etc. etc.
When was the last time you attended a prayer meeting? When was the last time you had a powerful encounter with God in personal prayer? When was the last time you prayed with your spouse? If you find it hard to answer those questions you need to discipline you prayer life; you need to get right with God.
Perhaps you’ve wandered a bit recently in your relationship with the Lord - you’re discouraged; you’ve suffered spiritual defeat. You need to renew your relationship with the Lord in prayer. Perhaps your prayer life just isn’t as disciplined as you’d like it to be; you don’t feel the intimacy as you once did; the freshness of your relationship with God has faded. You need to get back where you were. Or, perhaps your prayer life is regular and earnest and you don’t want to lose that.
There’s no better time than now to that make that commitment, to strive for constant, vigilant, persevering prayer in the Spirit. Why don’t you make that commitment now, publicly? There’s no need for embarrassment, just make a public declaration: “I want continuous, vigilant prayer to be characteristic of my life. I want the key to spiritual victory.”
1 Citation: Unknown, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.
2 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians (Dallas, Word Biblical Commentary, 1990), 252
3 Cited in MacArthur, Ephesians, 383.
4 Citation: James Emery White, You Can Experience a Purposeful Life (Nashville: Word, 2000) in Christianity Today.
Related Topics: Christian Life
Q. Does The Bible Contradict Itself In 1 Samuel 15 And 27?
So let’s begin with a word about presuppositions, and how we approach apparent contradictions in the Bible. Then we will turn to the actual texts of Scripture in question.
I come to the Bible with the assumption (firm conviction) that it is the Word of God, and thus apparent contradictions are just that, apparent. With this in mind, I look at the pertinent texts in order to find the solution or explanation for the apparent problem. In other words, I assume the Bible is right, and that my perception or understanding of the text is what is flawed. I look more carefully to see what I’ve missed.
With this assumption in mind, let’s take a look at the actual texts of Scripture:
Then Samuel said to Saul, “I was the one the LORD sent to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now listen to what the LORD says. 2 Here is what the LORD of hosts says: ‘I carefully observed how the Amalekites opposed Israel along the way when Israel came up from Egypt. 3 So go now and strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything that they have. Don’t spare them. Put them to death– man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.’” So Saul assembled the army and mustered them at Telaim. There were 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. 5 Saul proceeded to the city of Amalek, where he set an ambush in the wadi. 6 Saul said to the Kenites, “Go on and leave! Go down from among the Amalekites! Otherwise I will sweep you away with them! After all, you were kind to all the Israelites when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites withdrew from among the Amalekites. 7 Then Saul struck down the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, which is next to Egypt (1 Samuel 15:1-7, NET).
David said to Achish, “If I have found favor with you, let me be given a place in one of the country towns so that I can live there. Why should your servant settle in the royal city with you?” 6 So Achish gave him Ziklag on that day. (For that reason Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah until this very day.) 7 The length of time that David lived in the Philistine countryside was a year and four months. 8 Then David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. (They had been living in that land for a long time, from the approach to Shur as far as the land of Egypt.) 9 When David would attack a district, he would leave neither man nor woman alive. He would take sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and clothing and would then go back to Achish. 10 When Achish would ask, “Where did you raid today?” David would say, “The Negev of Judah” or “The Negev of Jeharmeel” or “The Negev of the Kenites.” 11 Neither man nor woman would David leave alive so as to bring them back to Gath. He was thinking, “This way they can’t tell on us, saying, ‘This is what David did.’” Such was his practice the entire time that he lived in the country of the Philistines. 12 So Achish trusted David, thinking to himself, “He is really hated among his own people in Israel! From now on he will be my servant” (1 Samuel 27:5-12).
First, note the size of the two battles. Saul’s battle involved 210,000 men of war (1 Samuel 15:4). His attack was against the “city of Amalek” (1 Samuel 15:5). We should keep in mind that Saul was not zealous to precisely fulfil the command of the Lord, and thus he left alive the finest animals (1 Samuel 15:9). Saul seems to have killed all the Amalekites he encountered in that city, but he was not zealous to fully carry out his mission. His focus was on the one city, where obviously a large number of Amalekites lived, but there is no indication that he sought to seek out and kill the Amalekites who lived elsewhere. (How could you completely kill of an entire population of Amalekites? There would always be a scattering of them in a number of places. So, when it says Saul “killed all the people” I believe it means that Saul killed all the Amalekites who were dwelling in “the city of Amalek,” but a number of others would be living in various location in the land.
David, on the other hand, is not living in or near Shur, but in Philistine territory, in the city of Ziklag. A number of Amalekites were living nearby. Apparently they had migrated there from Shur (1 Samuel 15:8). There were other peoples nearby as well – the Geshurites and the Girzites. Saul would not have gotten to these people, especially in Philistine territory, and so they survived. David killed all of these peoples in the places he raided.
Also, note the size of David’s army – 600 men (1 Samuel 27:2; 30:9). Obviously David’s army was a much smaller one, and the number of Amalekites killed were much fewer as well (only 400 escaped – 1 Samuel 30:17).
So in 1 Samuel 15 Saul waged a major campaign against the Amalekites, but in just that one city of the Amalekites. I take it he killed all of them, except Agag, their king (1 Samuel 15:9). Thus “all of them” does not mean “every Amalekite who was alive at that time,” but rather “every Amalekite in that city that was defeated by Saul.” So also in 1 Samuel 27, for those living in places David raided.
So the “all” who were killed by Saul was all of those in the “city of the Amalekites.” But it was not “all Amalekites.” Some of those Amalekites who remained alive were killed by David, who killed all that he encountered.
Thus, there is no contradiction.
Hope this helps,
Related Topics: Bible Study Methods