Most of us realize that the unity of the church of God courses through the book of Ephesians as a general theme. Paul illustrates the church as a complete body of which Jesus, though in heaven, is the Head, and the elect here on earth comprise the rest of it. Early on, Paul declares how God has planned the organization of His purpose from the very beginning, determining whom He would call, give His Spirit to, and perfect as His children.
In Ephesians 4, the apostle begins to clarify our Christian responsibilities regarding works. He appeals to us in verse 1 to make every effort to live a manner of life that measures up to the magnificence of our high calling. He then makes sure we understand that we must carry out our responsibilities in humility, kindness, and forbearance as we strive to maintain doctrinal accord in purity.
He explains that Christ has given each of us gifts to meet our responsibilities in maintaining the unity of God's church. Foremost among these gifts are teachers who will work to equip us for service in the church and eventually in the Kingdom. This same process will enable us to grow to completion, to mature, no longer wavering in our loyalties, certain in the direction of our lives, and not deceived by the craftiness of men.
With that foundation, the "therefore" in verse 17 draws our focus to the practical applications necessary to meet the standards of the preceding spiritual concepts. We must not conduct our lives as the unconverted do. They are blinded to these spiritual realities and so conduct life in ignorance, following the lusts of darkened minds.
Because we are being educated by God, the standards of conduct are established by His truths and are therefore exceedingly higher. We must make every effort to throw off the works of carnality and strive to acquire a renewed mind through diligent, continuous effort so that we can be created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness (verse 24).
In verses 25-29, Paul moves even further from generalities to clear, specific works that we must do. We must speak truth so that we do not injure another through lies, as well as to maintain unity. Because deceit produces distrust, unity cannot be maintained if lying occurs. We must not allow our tempers to flare out of control, for they serve as an open door for Satan to create havoc.
We must be honest, earning our way so that we are prepared to give to others who are in need. We must be careful that what we speak is not only true but also edifying, imparting encouragement, empathy, sympathy, exhortation, and even gentle correction when needed.
In verse 30 is a brief and kind reminder that, in doing our works we must never forget that we owe everything to our indwelling Lord and Master. We must make every effort to be thankful, acknowledging Him as the Source of all gifts and strengths, enabling us to glorify Him through our works.
In the final two verses of the chapter, Paul delineates specific responsibilities concerning our attitudes toward fellow Christians within personal relationships.
This brief overview of just one chapter shows clearly how much works enter into a Christian's life as practical requirements that cannot be passed off as unnecessary. How else will a Christian glorify God? How else will he grow to reflect the image of God? How else will he fulfill God's command to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) except by faithfully doing those works that lead to life?
Through the whole process of sanctification, the Christian will make constant use of two additional works: daily prayer and Bible study, which must be combined with his efforts to obey God. No one who is careless about performing these works can expect to make progress growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ during sanctification.
Why? Without them, he will have no relationship with either the Father or the Son, and thus will not be enabled to achieve the required works. They are the Source of the powers that make it possible for us to do the works God has ordained. If we do not follow through on these two works, we will surely hear ourselves called "wicked and lazy" and be cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:24-30).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)
Self-control is the manifestation of God's work in man through the Holy Spirit. Paul elaborated in His teaching on self-control that Christian self-control results from the Holy Spirit's indwelling (Romans 8:1-4). It is the Spirit-controlled mind that is strengthened with power (Ephesians 3:16; 5:18) to control rebellious desires and to resist the allurements of tempting pleasures.
Martin G. Collins
With admonitions like these, we step into the intimate personal relationships within a congregation or family. They show that unity depends more upon the exercise of the members' moral qualities than the structure of the institution. Paul shows in Ephesians that the life we are called to live is characterized by five qualities: humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love, the last of which embraces the preceding four and is the crown of all virtues. Each of these qualities enables us to act in mercy and live at peace. God's Spirit empowers us to use these qualities to overcome the ill will and the bitter, passionate rages that lead to clamorous slander, destroying reputations.
Such ill will and rage hardly promote kindness, compassion, and acting in grace toward each other. "Acting in grace" is an acceptable translation of the Greek word, charizomai, rendered "forgiving" in Ephesians 4:32. Acting in grace catches the essence of how God has acted toward us and our sin against Him. And because He has forgiven us, we are commanded to forgive each other (Colossians 3:13).
Mercy begins with the way we feel about or toward each other and moves toward merciful acts. God loves us and has an outgoing concern for us. If God so loves us, then we ought to love each other (I John 4:11). Thus, we are bound to forbear with one another and act kindly, in mercy. Anybody focused on himself as the center of the universe will have a difficult time thinking kindly of others, and unity will be difficult, if not impossible. It is no wonder, then, why so much divorce occurs, as well as division in other areas of life. A focus on the self does not allow much room for humble, kind, and compassionate thoughts of service for others.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful
The apostle Paul tells us to "be kind to one another." Peter says to "add brotherly kindness" to the other godly virtues God is developing in us. Living according to God's instruction, following the example of Christ and aided by the Holy Spirit, we produce the wonderful, spiritual fruit of kindness.
Martin G. Collins
Hostility seems to be a hallmark of this church age in a similar way that road-rage is to the world. It is alright for us to be righteously indignant as long as we do not sin. There is a place for righteous indignation, but God does not permit much anger because it is difficult not to sin when angry. That kind of anger is a "mark of the beast."
Frequently, hostility is simply a denial of reality. People do not have tempers born in them; angry tempers begin to be created in childhood. Parents allow tempers to burst forth, and each time it happens, it becomes easier—and the next time and the next and on and on until it is ingrained in the personality.
Anger is nothing more than a passionate response to some sort of stimuli, and it is almost always a self-centered response. It usually begins when we believe that what should or should not have happened either did or did not, and conflict arises. We can believe, either strongly or weakly, it should or should not have happened. Therefore, anger can be either strong or weak or anywhere in between.
The reality is this: What happened happened. How will anger help the problem? Satan believes that it does because he wants to control, to win, to compete, to devour, to get the upper hand, to triumph. Do we really need the anger to drive us to manipulate or to punish? Why not just start working on a solution without the anger, knowing full well that the anger will likely create sin and cause additional damage to the relationship? In a way, it is all very logical, but our feelings get in the way.
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." The first clause can be paraphrased, "There is a way that man thinks things should be." This is where conflict arises: Two people see things differently. The question is, then, who is to say that it should be the way we see it?
Things happen because laws are broken, and whatever we sow we reap. Sometimes we get caught in other peoples' ignorance and stupidity. This is a fact of everybody's life, even to God in the flesh. He got caught in the ignorance and stupidity of His fellow Israelites in Judea, and it cost Him His life—yet He did not get angry. What an example! What an example of control. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
How far did He go to make peace? To the death. Even when the other person was totally, absolutely, completely wrong, He did not go to war against him.
The problem with anger arises when we turn our feelings and drives to set things right, as we see them, into absolute necessities. We feel it must be our way, but the reality is that others have the same rights from God that we have. Everyone has free moral agency. Anger arises because of the way we judge things: We apply the standard that we hold as being the right one.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast
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