It is common for people to take the easy way, the path of least resistance. They allow themselves to be blown along with the prevailing cultural wind, whether in fashion, sports, art, music, politics, or sadly, ethics and morals. Taking no thought to their course or direction, they follow along with the current trends because it is easier to "go with the flow."
When bad things happen or when they realize that they have ended up somewhere that they never imagined they would be, instead of deeply considering the course of their lives, many merely shrug their shoulders and call it "fate" or "circumstance." In doing this, they show that they are ruled by the swirling winds of society around them. Rather than exercising control over their lives, they allow those trends to direct their journeys through life. They simply refuse to set a course, man the tiller, and make for a set destination.
At one time or another, we, too, have been affected by what is happening in the world. We have allowed ourselves to be driven by the prevailing winds of this society and its standards. Whether we admit it or not, we have been affected by our culture's television, movies, fashion, politics, and even religion.
We have been called to come out of this world (Revelation 18:4). God wants us to find a course contrary to the prevailing and normal way of life that seems right to those in the world. As Proverbs 14:12 tells us, "There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death" (The Amplified Bible). History is strewn with examples of human ideas that did not end well.
The prevailing winds of this Satan-inspired world (II Corinthians 4:4) sweep millions along in its intense velocity. It is beating against us all the time, and the struggle to resist is wearying. Out of sheer exhaustion, some give in to these winds and conform to their whispered suggestions. It is especially easy to succumb to them when surrounded by peers, employers, friends, and neighbors who want us to follow them and their way of thinking. It is just far less stressful to go along.
However, we are not to conform to the course that the world takes (Romans 12:2). Instead, we are to set our sails to follow a different line, obeying God and rejecting the popular trends of this world when they disregard His way of life. This means that we must take the time to consider and decide where we want to end up. What is our destination? Where is our home port? Then, we have to learn to make right choices so that we will one day arrive there.
The force that is in the world—dominant, popular, and widespread—is contrary to God. If we desire to obey God, we must face it and overcome it, having enough strength to endure its ceaseless, insistent pressure to return to its easy lifestyle.
Paul is referring to a process of spiritual maturity that will keep us solidly grounded and on a steady course to the Kingdom of God.
Two of the phrases Paul uses in this passage deserve expounding by commentator Albert Barnes:
[That we henceforth be no more children] . . . children have other characteristics besides simplicity and docility. They are often changeable (Matt 11:17); they are credulous, and are influenced easily by others, and led astray. In these respects, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be no longer children but urges them to put on the characteristics of [adulthood]; and especially to put on the firmness in religious opinion which became maturity of life. . . .
[And carried about with every wind of doctrine] With no firmness; no settled course; no helm. The idea is that of a vessel on the restless ocean, that is tossed about with every varying wind, and that has no settled line of sailing.
As we know, children have short attention spans; they change directions seemingly in an instant. They will begin to play with one toy only to be distracted by another a moment later. A parent will tell them to do something, and the intention to obey escapes them as soon as something else comes up.
While Jesus tells us that, in our conversion, we are to "become as little children" (Matthew 18:3), He is not referring to this kind of simplicity, changeability, and distractibility. Putting these two admonitions together, Christians are to be mature in their convictions and faith, yet open and humble as little children. In this way, they are receptive to God's truth and the guidance of His Spirit, yet sure and uncompromising in their beliefs.
To get the upper hand, men use trickery, cunning, and deceit to fool others into moving in the direction that they want them to go. Employing crafty and calculating "skills," they deceive and misdirect the unaware down a path that they never intended to go. They may speak smooth words—what they propose sounds great—but the consequences are destructive. Not all is as it seems.
Appearances can be very deceiving. A piece of fruit may look delicious on the outside, but the inside may be rotten. Consider a lake, for instance, which can seem calm and peaceful from the solidity of the shore, but from a boat on the water, a person feels the power of the currents and the violence of the wind that seems to blow almost a gale. A sea may be tranquil, with gentle breezes and water as smooth as glass, yet suddenly, it can be whipped into a dangerous and violent storm.
Matthew 8:23-27 contains the story of Jesus and His disciples weathering such a storm on the Sea of Galilee:
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"
What did Jesus do while the small fishing boat pitched in the midst of a roaring storm? The winds whipped and churned the sea, and the waves crashed over the ship, creating intense fear in all aboard—except in Him. He was at peace—sleeping!—and His mind was at ease. Jesus' faith was mature and strong, not able to be "tossed to and fro." He knew how safe it was to be in God's protective hands.
When He was awakened, He reprimanded the disciples by saying, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" They had allowed themselves to see only the terror of the storm, forgetting that their Creator—One who had power over all nature—was lying contentedly asleep. They did not reckon that God would not allow His Son to perish like this, since that would ruin His plan. All they saw was the storm. They could not see the malevolent spirit behind the storm and that the storm was intended to blow them off course, to weaken their faith, and to divert them from their planned destination.
What about us? Do we allow the fierce winds that blow around us to toss us violently about, as if we were sitting in a dinghy on a stormy ocean, bobbing on the waves like a cork? Just remember that, when sail is put to the wind, even a dinghy can be successfully steered to its intended destination.
We are frequently admonished to "search" the Scripture to seek out the truth that God reveals by His Spirit. We are urged to know what we believe and why. God wants us to have faith and conviction to the point of even giving up our lives in obedience to Him and His truth.
We must carefully examine God's Word and learn what is true. And having found it, we should adhere to it always, not yielding an inch of ground when supposedly new teaching comes around from the mouth of smooth talkers. Not all church members have stood firm, as we know from experience. Some, making poor choices about what "truth" they will adhere to, have been blown off course, sailing away from their original destination—the Kingdom of God. They will, of course, end up in a different port.
This may be what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 4:14—that some members of the church in Ephesus were not following Christ's path. They had become liberal and lax, no longer having the conviction to the truth fixed in their hearts and minds. The doctrines and truth they once held were no longer resolute in their minds. Their faith was weakening, and in consequence, they began to yield to every new opinion and submit to the guidance of every new teacher.
So, as it is brought out in Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the sun." What has happened in the past happens in the present.
We must really know the truth of God, believe it, and be fully convinced of it in true faith. In addition, we have to have our glorious destination as our goal and steer a steady course toward it.
When faced with the prevailing wind, a sailor can "beat to windward," a technique that involves a maneuver called "tacking." Tacking, also called "coming about," is turning the boat at an angle to run against the wind so that one travels sideways in order to make forward progress. It takes some work and skill, but one can actually proceed on course to his destination.
It is a matter of control. Instead of being blown freely in the direction of the prevailing wind, one can gain control of his direction. Once again, it is the set of our sails, not the prevailing wind that determines our course. We have a Captain who knows the seas and the winds and how to get us to His port.
Paul suggests that a new convert is a child, unstable in his ways, who really does not know which end is up spiritually. He can easily be tricked and deceived.
Someone who has grown, on the other hand, is someone who is stable, who will not be swept aside by persecutions, trials, deceitful teachings, and false doctrines. He can fight these off because he knows, understands, is convicted, and continues in the truth. However, he did not get to this point without also going through a process of growth. He had to pray, study, obey, make choices, analyze, compare, look at the fruits of things, and so on. He had to set his will and change. As he does these things, growth takes place.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 19)
Verse 14 speaks about us no longer being children, tossed to and fro. This obviously means that a purpose of the ministry is to protect the church from false doctrine. In many respects the ministry has done fairly well in this over the past several years. We have really tried to get back to basics, back to Jude 3 and "the faith once delivered," and to re-prove the doctrines so that the members will know what they should know, be assured of them, and go forward in confidence in them.
Notice in verse 15 that it seems to say that the ministry does this—that they help people no longer be children, guarding them from false doctrine—by speaking the truth in love, and that this causes maturity, moving them from being spiritual babes to taking on the character of God and Christ. When we speak the truth, we expose error, like a light shining in a dark place. The Word of God is often compared to a light. When one turns on a light, darkness is dispelled. So truth exposes error, trickery, craftiness, and deception. It calms and settles, guides and directs. Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 show what the Word of God is and does. It is a worthwhile study to read them to become re-grounded in the effective working of God's Word.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church
Jesus Christ is the standard and example, the pinnacle of all things a human should be. Not only was He legally sinless, He was also humble, meek, merciful, sacrificial, kind, encouraging, positive, and patient. When considering what He was in His total personality for the purpose of comparing ourselves to Him, we need to recall Romans 3:23: "All . . . fall short of the glory of God." None of us measure up to His standard in any area of personality, and this is what hamartia ("sins") and paraptoma ("trespasses") describe: falling short of the ideal. Together, hamartia and paraptoma directly tie what we might think of as minor, unimportant, and secondary issues of conduct and attitude into the Ten Commandments.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment
Other commentary entries containing this verse:
1 Thessalonians 5:21
1 Timothy 2:12
1 Peter 5:1-3