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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Key Ingredient for Christians - Ephesians 6


Ephesians 6

            We are now at the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul spoke of many things to the Ephesian Christians and faithful followers. He explained how God chose us before the foundation of the world to be in a relationship with God and to be holy and blameless through His grace and forgiveness (1:4, 7-8; 2:4-9; 4:7). Paul told us we are adopted children of God who have an inheritance with Christ in His kingdom (1:5, 11). He explained God revealed His mystery and what the mystery is (1:9; 2:13, 19: 3:3-6). Paul said God sealed us with His Holy Spirit and that His Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance in God’s kingdom (1:14). He spoke, too, about growing in our relationship with God and the members of the body of Christ (2:21; 4:12, 15-16). Paul told us about Christ’s grace gifts in chapter four that Christians are to use to unify and grow the body of Christ. He told us to be "renewed in the spirit of our minds," "put on the new self," and what these mean (4:23-24). In chapter five, Paul told us to be imitators of God, to walk in love, be strong in the Lord, love each other, and do the will of God from the heart. How did Paul conclude his letter? How do you conclude a letter of such size with so many teaching points? Paul ended the letter to the Ephesians in a profound and memorable way.

            Paul introduced the analogy of the armor of God for believers. He had many memorable teachings, but this one is unforgettable. Lest we jump too quickly into the armor and forget the key ingredient for life as a follower of Christ, we must step back one verse to verse ten of chapter six. Paul said, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” This is the most important thing we can do as followers of Jesus Christ. Paul knew its importance so stated it twice, in Ephesians in 1:19-20 and in 6:10. He explained, too, the greatness of God’s power in Ephesians 3:20. In who are we to be strong in Ephesians 6:10? The Lord. We are to live by the Lord’s super-abundant, more than we can ever think or imagine power. The phrase “be strong” that Paul used means be/being strengthened in the Lord. As a Christian, we are actively and daily to "be strong for the Lord by the power of His might." "Be strong" means being strengthened and emboldened. We must call upon God and live in Him, through His power, as we live in this world. This way of living is a daily, minute-by-minute activity. We followers of Christ do not say we believe and then go about our merry way. Believers in Jesus Christ must each minute choose to live in and be strengthened by God to live as imitators of Him. Remember in Ephesians 3:20 we learned of God’s power being abundantly beyond all we can think or ask. We are not alone and walking in our power. The “power” of which Paul spoke comes from the Greek word dunamis, from which we get our word dynamite. The word “work” Paul used is the Greek word energeo, which means “operates.” This means Paul said we must be strengthened by the power of the Lord, according to the dynamo working within us. We should live in this world daily strengthened by God’s dynamo, imitating Him and with His power to overcome the evil ones.

            Looking at the armor of God, we must note Paul gave six commands and they are active commands, not passive. Being an armored child of God is an active lifestyle, not passive, especially when you consider what Paul taught in the first five chapters. Paul commanded the faithful followers to “put on the full armor” (vs. 11), “take up the full armor” (vs. 13), “stand firm” (vs. 14), “take the helmet of salvation” (vs. 17), “pray at all times” (vs. 18), and “be on the alert” (vs. 18). These commands are active and are present tense. Paul meant for Jesus followers to do it now and every day. These commands build upon each other, too. Paul said to “Put on the full armor of God,” clothe yourself with God. Be so closely aligned with God, imitators of God (5:1), that people can only see God in your life. Putting on something does not mean you have to do anything, but Paul means for you as a Christ follower to act as an imitator of God. Do not just accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, but let this salvation change your life, too. Act out what God paid so dearly for you, your salvation. Be imitators of God and show His love. As a soldier, child, of God, Paul said to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” To be a Christian means you the devil will assault you more. The devil wants to make you fail - not show God’s love and not share His Gospel message. You must actively be imitators of God because the devil and his dark forces will challenge you. You must stand in the strength of the Lord. Standing firm and putting on are active. Standing firm means to be prepared, steadfast of mind, and immovable. Stand firm in your faith and in the strength of the Lord whose power is abundantly above and beyond your imagining.

            In verse twelve, Paul told the faithful followers and us the struggles we face as Jesus followers is against evil rulers, dark forces of wickedness, the devil, and his demons. Paul spoke of these before in Ephesians 1:21, 2:2, and 3:10. We are unable to fight the evil forces in our own human limited strength. Yet, God provides exactly what we need, His superabundant power and might, which He gives to us as we ask. Paul told us to be imitators of God in 5:1. He did not say we had to fight the dark forces that batter against us in our own strength. God’s strength is available to His children as armor.

            Notice in verse thirteen, Paul said, “Take up the full armor of God.” We can put on the armor without taking it up. Taking up a thing is to raise and carry it for use. We can put on the armor that says we are a Christian, but we do not have to walk with it. How many people became Christians, but then the next day they went back to their old way of life? No one in their normal circle knows anything about a faith decision they made by their lifestyle. This is the same thing as putting on the armor without taking it up. If we do not take up the armor of God, no one knows we are a Jesus follower because we do not have a changed life. We are not changing the way we live by fighting off the temptations Satan throws at us from which we did not fight before our decision to follow Christ. This second command of Paul’s tells who is an active follower of Jesus. “Take up the full armor of God so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Without actively using the armor, taking it up, we cannot stand firm against the evil ones. We will be movable and waver away from Jesus. The devil can make us ineffective as Christ followers.

            The third command Paul gave was “stand firm.” Paul commanded us to “stand firm” three times for emphasis, for its importance. If we do not stand firm in God, we will return to our old way of life, to non-victorious living. We will not lose our salvation, but we will lose our joy and peace in the midst of living in the world. Paul did not just command us to stand firm; he gave us six very visual pieces of armor to put on, to recall to our minds when we face trials and temptations. He could have said remember the Truth you were taught about Jesus Christ. Remember His righteousness and the righteousness you received when you gave your life to Him. Remember the peace you have knowing you are saved and will be with God in His kingdom. Remember the faith you have in Jesus Christ and the salvation He gave you. Remember, too, the Word of God is always true and reveals truth. Paul could have encouraged us to remember these as we fight Satan, but he chose an analogy that is much more memorable. He chose to use the example of armor for Christians to recall when battling Satan. Paul compared the battle with Satan with the battles people are familiar with on this earth.

Since Paul gave the command to take up the full armor of God, he assumed we and the Ephesian Christians daily put on the armor and prepared to use it to fight the deceit and trickery of Satan. The way to be strong in the Lord is to put on the armor of God, take up the armor, and stand firm in His might and power. The tools available to us as Christians Paul symbolized in the pieces of armor. Since you have put on the armor of God, girded your loins, put on the breastplate, shod your feet, and taken the shield, helmet, and sword, use them. When Paul said, “having girded your loins with truth,” he recalls to us the truth we learned about God’s love, the gift of salvation He bought for us with His Son, Jesus Christ’s, life, death, and resurrection, and our future inheritance in His kingdom. As we fight Satan, we must remember these truths because Satan wants to trick us into not being sure of the truths of God. In addition, in the Bible, when people spoke of the “loins,” they spoke of the future generations who would come from their loins. We are to be strong against Satan in remembering the truths of God and must safeguard future generations from Satan by passing down these truths to them. Remember, God commanded the Israelites to bind the words of God on their hearts and minds and to teach them to their children and grandchildren. We do not fight against Satan just for the present time. We fight against Satan for future generations to know God and stand strong. We pass our knowledge of God and His grace to future generations.

Paul continued, “Having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (vs. 14). We know that to live, we must protect our heart. That organ keeps the rest of the body alive. Our hearts tells what we value, too. We give our heart to what matters most to us. When we love God most in our lives, our lives are changed. God’s righteousness shows in our lives. His righteousness in our lives means we are honest, virtuous, pure, and correct in our thinking, feeling, and acting. Our word “righteousness” gets its definition from God’s character of righteousness. God’s characteristic of righteousness defines for us what righteous living is. If God is our purpose for living and we gave Him our lives, then we gave our hearts to God. When Paul sought for a piece of armor to coincide with righteousness, he chose the armor that guards our hearts, the breastplate. When we live our daily lives, can people see God’s righteousness in you? If not, has Satan’s arrows hit their mark of your heart so that your righteousness is affected? As we live, we meet people who say they are followers of Jesus, but we do not see that their encounter with God has changed their lives because they do not live righteously. Satan probably tricked them into believing something contrary to God’s teaching. We have at our disposal to be used this breastplate. As we live, we must remember to be imitators of God (Eph. 5) and live righteously through His power since He is righteous.

Further, in verse fifteen, Paul said, “Having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.” Once again, we accepted God’s gift of grace and forgiveness. We became His children and rest in peace knowing the hope we have of our salvation and future home in God’s kingdom. This is our peace. Christ commanded us to take the Gospel to the world, too (Matthew 28:18-20). The peace we have is not static, but continues. We must recall the peace that comes from the hope God put in us upon our salvation. Paul chose to use foot armor to represent this part of the armor of God. Our peace is so great we want everyone to know of God’s plan of salvation. Paul said in Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the Gospel of peace.” God's peace in our hearts is active in our hearts. We are to live out this peace so other people will hear of the Gospel of peace. We can help them to have the armor from God, too. We are to put on the armored shoes and take them up to spread the Gospel and combat the arrows of Satan. We have peace because we do not fear death or anything the enemy throws at us.

Paul reiterated in verse sixteen, “Taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” He ensured we understood the shield is an active piece of our armor and artillery against Satan. We believe the truth of the Gospel and we must keep it before us so that Satan’s lies and trickery will not cause us to doubt, stumble, and fall. The shield in any armor is the foremost defensive weapon we in hand to hand combat. Behind it, we shield ourselves from arrows. We must continue to stay strong in our faith to be able to withstand Satan’s deceit, to grow stronger in our faith, and to show our faith to others, show that God’s grace changed us into a new person. The shield acts as defense and reminds us of our faith.

“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” Paul said. With our minds, we acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and His salvation. With our hearts, we believe and accept God’s gift, grace, and forgiveness. Most of us hear the truths about God and consider their reasonableness before we believe. Our minds are the place the truths of God first affect. Paul attaches, symbolically, the helmet as the armor to remind us of our salvation. It assures us of our salvation when Satan tries to trick us into believing it cannot be that easy or that we are not saved. We must protect our minds from Satan’s slippery tongue. We must remember daily and actively that God loved us from before He created the world and chose us to be in a relationship with Him; therefore, when we accepted His grace and forgiveness and received His salvation, we returned to our loving God. Reminding ourselves of our cherished-ness and salvation by God keeps us strong in God. When we are strong in God, we do not become weak and fall prey to Satan. The sword of the Spirit is the only overtly offensive weapon in the armor. With the sword, we can charge forward to protect others from an eternity separated from God by telling them what the Word of God says. The sword is a defensive weapon, as well. It reminds us of everything God told us.

Each of these pieces of armor is to remind us of what we know and to help us grow stronger in God’s power. The armor is an analogy that aids us in remembering God’s love, grace, and salvation given to us. Mostly they appear to be for defense against Satan. Yet we use them offensively as we take the Good News to other people in the world. In addition, they expose the “deeds of darkness,” as Paul said in Ephesians 5:11. As Christ followers, Christ commanded us to love God and our neighbors (Luke 10:27) and to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). By going, we see and hear from people what they learned in other places. We hear how Satan is tricking people and can reveal the Light of Truth from God's Word to expose the false teachings. Since living in South Africa, I have worked with refugees. I have met many people who gave their hearts to God. When I sit to talk with them and listen to the teachings others taught them, I hear false teachings, teachings that are different from the Word. These false teachings are what we must expose to the Light. One such false teaching I encountered is that Jesus died to give us salvation with God, but Jesus is not a part of the Godhead because if Jesus were a part of Godhead, then we would be worshipping more than one God, which God forbids in the Old Testament. I must spend time listening to why they believe this, then bring the Bible to show them where in the Bible God says after John baptized Jesus, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). I, too, can show them from the Bible that any sacrifices humankind makes to God is not enough to give them forgiveness and salvation. Therefore, if Jesus were just a man who offered himself as a sacrificial offering, his sacrifice would not be enough to atone for the sins of all humankind. There are many teachings about Jesus being the Son of God as well as many teachings telling that the offerings of humankind are not enough to atone for all the sins of humankind and make them righteous before God.

The reality of Satan being in the world to trick, deceive, and destroy is why we are to put on, take up, and stand firm in the strength of the Lord. One other thing we need is prayer, Paul said. Once again, “take up” is an active verb, not static. We are to “pray and keep on praying at all times in the Spirit,” said Paul (vs. 18). Prayer is our dialoguing with God about needs of people and ourselves. Prayer, too, is about thanking and praising God. Paul spoke of more than this, though. He said we are to pray in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit means we are in such deep accord with God that what God desires is what we want - to see Satan defeated, people saved and discipled, and the whole world returned to a relationship with God. Because we are praying in the Spirit, we are more aware of the arrows Satan throws; we are watchful, alert, and ready to petition for the saints. Our connection with God is so close that His love, thoughts, and desires are ours and we are prepared and joining Him in the battle. We pray in the Spirit whenever we respond to ministers’, missionaries’, and church members’ reports of ministry or requests for prayer. When you see a post on Facebook of a ministry occurring, a person seeking God, a new believer, or someone in the hospital, your immediate response and action is to join God in prayer because your heart loves the person because God’s Spirit within you loves the person. When pastors post the text for next week’s sermon, you pray God will reveal His truths to the pastor to teach to the church. Paul spoke of this when he said, “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (vs. 19). The word translated “utterance” is logos in the original Greek text. Logos is the Word of God. Ministers and missionaries still ask for prayer in this regard. Church members should pray for each other in this, too, since Christ told each of us to spread the Word.

Paul ended his letter by telling the Ephesian Christians that he was sending Tychicus, who would tell them about his circumstances so they could comfort themselves about his well-being and know how to pray for him in the Spirit. In the end, Paul expressed his heart in his closing. He prayed and blessed them with God’s peace, love, and grace.

God’s love filled Paul’s heart. Paul loved the Ephesians as much as God did. He prayed in the Spirit for them. Paul desired them to grow in Christ and in unity as the body of believers. He wanted to make sure they understood so many things. The armor of God is a wonderful analogy of the Christian life and a model of sanctification, the growing in Christlikeness. Paul basically taught our putting on the armor of God, taking up the armor of God, and standing firm is our working out our salvation, our sanctification – the preparing yourself and walking in Christ in God’s strength. We are not spectators, so put on the armor and use it. In addition, know God’s strength is in us through the Holy Spirit is what makes us stand firm and reminds us of truth, the righteousness Christ gave you, and the hope of our salvation, which gives us peace. These help us combat the arrows of doubt and deceit, the trickery of the devil. So remember the salvation we have received and stand strong in that knowledge. The armor is a defensive weapon against Satan’s deceit. Remember, at all times pray in the Spirit. Be that connected to God.

Paul gave a much-remembered analogy for Christian life in the armor of God. Christians for centuries heralded and taught other parts of Ephesians as profound, too. Below I offer a summary of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. --

Now that you know God chose you before the foundation of the world to be in a relationship with God and to be holy and blameless (1:4)…

Now that you received adoption as God’s sons and daughters (1:5)…

Now that you know of God’s redemption through Christ’s blood (1:7)…

Now that you received God’s grace and forgiveness (1:7-8; 2:4-9; 4:7)…

Now that God revealed the mystery (1:9; 2:13, 19; 3:3-6)…

Now that you have an inheritance (1:11)…

Now that the Holy Spirit sealed you (1:13)…

Now that you received His pledge of the Holy Spirit for your inheritance (1:14)…

You are the praise of His glory (1:14; 3:20-21),

So…

Grow and keep on growing in your relationship with God and in Christlikeness (2:21).

Be strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner man (3:16).

Walk in a manner worthy of being called a child of God (4:1)

            grow individually and jointly and (4:12, 15-16)

            be unified into one body (4:13, 16)

            because of God’s love for us.

Be renewed in the spirit of your mind (4:23).

Put on the new self (4:24).

Be imitators of God and walk in love (5:1).

Love each other as God and Christ loves you (5:25-27, 33).

Do the will of God from the heart and render service as to the Lord and not to men (6:6-7).

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (6:10).

The point of chapter six lies in verse 10, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” The armor analogy Paul created gave Christians of every generation a strong image to remember and use for the purpose of verse 10. The analogy gave different parts of the faith to remember to help us stay strong. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was multipurpose. He taught many significant points in it. I do not think any one point is more important than another is. Yet Paul ensured the people remembered the spiritual blessings with which God blessed each Jesus follower. The armor pointed these out. Most importantly, though, Paul emphasized that God gave each believer His Spirit as a pledge of their inheritance, as joiner of God and human in prayer, and as the strength against dark forces.

People are not alone fighting against evil in the world once they become Jesus followers. God joins us with Himself through His Spirit. Trying to do right is tiring. Trying to keep our heads above water wears us out. We are fragile, limited humans. We cannot buy, find, or guarantee our own eternal life. Nothing we do can ensure us of this. God provided a way through His Son, Jesus Christ. When a person decides with their heart to follow Jesus – accept God’s love, grace, and forgiveness – God gives His Holy Spirit to live in him or her to guide, teach, remind, strengthen him or her. The Holy Spirit is God’s promise to each of His children. Have you made the decision to follow Jesus? You can do it with a prayer to God confessing your sins and accepting His grace, forgiveness, and salvation for eternal life. It is up to you. You do not have to walk through life alone. God waits for you to call to Him. If you want to talk to someone, write to me or speak to a Christian pastor or friend.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Imitators of Christ Ephesians 5


Ephesians 5

            Paul continued his thought from chapter 4 in this chapter. He said, “Therefore, be imitators of God.” At the end of chapter 4, he said, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Paul said this in 4:32 and in 5:1 when he said, “be imitators of God.” Earlier in chapter four, Paul told the followers of Christ in Ephesus about Christ’s grace gifts for the strengthening and building up of the church, the body of Christ. He spoke, too, of how each individual follower is to live – with humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, preserving the unity and peace, speaking truth in love, working diligently, and being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. Every follower must "be renewed in the spirit of their mind" and continually be putting on the "new self" (vs. 4:23-24).

            In chapter 5, Paul continued teaching how a child of God should walk. He or she must walk in love without immorality, impurity, or greed. The person must speak no filth, silly/foolish talk, or coarse jesting for a person who does these things does not have an “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (vs. 5). In these verses, three through five, Paul spoke of wrong actions, thoughts, will, and speech. The Greek word for immorality Paul used is porneia from which we get our word pornography and means illicit sexual intercourse and worship of idols. Remember the old idol worship often involved sexual acts to appease those gods. The impurity Paul spoke of is uncleanness physically and morally such as lust, wanton living, and living in ease while others go do not have enough on which to live. Greed is included in these two definitions as well. Greed is of the mind – coveting- and of action – taking for yourself whether what you take is yours or not or hoarding even when others do not have enough. Paul spoke against speech that was filth, foolish, and coarse. This manner of speaking includes speaking obscenities, foolish talking, and bawdiness/indecency/immodesty. Remember Jesus Christ said what is in the heart makes a person clean or not. The manner of speaking shows the heart of a person. If a person speaks filthy, silly, and coarse talk, his or her heart is not clean; he or she is not clean. Paul said these are not the ways of being imitators of God. These show an immoral person (a person who commits sexual immorality), one who is impure (unclean in thought and life), and one who covets (is an idolater, choosing things over God). This person has no inheritance in the kingdom of God.

            Paul continued teaching by saying, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (vs. 6). He moved from describing a person who is not a follower of Christ to telling them who to avoid, the people who deceive others. The “empty words” Paul spoke of are words without truth or effect. These kids of words have no effect to make you more Christlike, but draw you away from God. Because people speak these words, God’s wrath (His anger exhibited in punishment) comes upon the disobedient (those who are opposed to the divine will and follow Satan). To be imitators of God, do not listen to the false words these deceivers speak to you; do not be partakers with them. Paul said do not join and be like them, the sons of disobedience. Remember, before you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you were part of the darkness. Now you walk in the Light and are part of the Light in the Lord. So, walk as children of Light trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (vs. 8, 10). Do not listen to the sons of darkness because they will not teach you what is pleasing to the Lord. You will know they are sons of darkness by their fruit. The “fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (vs. 9). The sons of Light will have the fruit of the Light – uprightness of heart and life, kindness, integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness and correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting, and truth as respecting God and the duties of humankind as opposed to the superstitions of unbelievers, corrupt opinions, and teachings of false teachers. Christians must learn how to test and prove a teaching to see if it is a false teaching or pleasing to the Lord so the sons of disobedience will not mislead them. Knowing God and His Word and testing every teaching against Him will show if it is false or pleasing to the Lord.

            Paul stated what not to think, say, or enact. He reminded them, too, who they were before they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they “were formerly darkness” (vs. 7). Now they are children of the Light and they grow more in the image of Christ. They knew this because of the fruit of Light in them – goodness, righteousness, and truth. Paul then taught them they must test and prove if a teaching is from the Lord. They must examine it to decide if they should follow it based on if it comes from the Lord. Paul then commanded them not to be part of “the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but expose them for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things, which are done by them in secret” (vs. 11-12). The Christian must expose deeds that are barren and that do not yield fruits of the Light. This word “expose” comes from the Greek word elegcho, which means refute, reprove, correct, and admonish. Followers of Christ must be growing ever more like God, becoming imitators of God, so that they recognize Truth from falsehood that tries to trick people. When Christians recognize false teachings, they must refute and correct them – expose them – so that they will be clear and people will not follow them. Christians must expose these false teachings by bringing them into the Light so their falsity will be known. Christ, Paul said in verse 14, re-quoting Isaiah 60:1, is the one who shines on those who were dead before and in darkness. Christ shines on the world to show the darkness and bring Light and truth to everyone. When a person is a son or daughter of the Light, Christ’s light shines in them and the false teachers no longer can mislead them if they follow Him, become more like Him by knowing His Word and His heart. These children of God are children of Light and darkness no longer holds any power over them.

            Paul next used “therefore” again. Since you are God’s children, he said, be careful how you walk, how you conduct yourself, not as foolish men, but as wise men. In verse sixteen, Paul said make the most of your time (redeem the time other translations say) because the days of this age are evil. Paul taught them to use their time wisely and told them not to fall prey to temptation or sin because Satan is at work in the world. Since you are God’s children, Satan will work even harder on you to trick you and make you fall. So, do not be foolish to act rashly without reflection and intelligence. Make sure you understand the will of the Lord for you in that time and place (vs. 17). To make sure you are not being foolish and acting rashly, do not get drunk with wine, for that dissipation will make you act or speak foolishly. Instead, Paul said, be filled with the Spirit (vs. 18). In this section of the chapter, Paul explained that Christians are children of Light and the devil works harder against God’s children to trip them and make them appear foolish. Instead, Paul said, be careful how you walk and use your time; understand what the Lord's will is. Be wise and make good use of your time so you do not fall to the temptations the devil puts before you, which makes you sin. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

            Verses nineteen through twenty-one explain what Paul meant by being filled with the Spirit. Paul spoke of speaking, singing, making melody, giving thanks, and being subject to one another. To do these in the way God intended requires the Holy Spirit to live in a person, which occurs in Christians. First, in verse nineteen, Paul said, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Why did he not say singing to one another? Paul spoke of the basic level of relaying about God, through our speech. When we go to church or are in another Christian assembly, we do not sing everything we say. We speak more than we sing, most likely. Paul made sure that the children of God knew they were to speak and sing about God. The speaking to one another builds up each other’s faith and resolve. It gives a testimony of praise about God to another and reminds and teaches them about God and the faith. When more than one person speaks about God, they are in accord with one another in their testifying of God and the faith. This is where the songs enter. Songs are words sung in accord, not discordance, about God and the faith. When more than one person is testifying about God at the same time, unity and harmony/accordance between people exists. It becomes a song sung with each person’s voice being a different part of the chord of praise to God. This is the difference between speaking and singing. Not to say one person cannot sing to and about God on their own, but the transition for Paul from speaking to singing shows this accord/unity and relates the chords of music to God’s ears. This becomes mutual edification and an upliftment of the church.

Now, what is the difference between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, you may ask? I asked, too, why Paul differentiated between these. The “psalms” may be Paul saying we should speak and sing the psalms of David, Zacharias, Simeon, et al. of the Bible. The psalms are pious songs. They lead us to the divine, preparing us to worship and leading us to worship. Hymns are sacred sons as tithes of praises to God. We offer back to God our praise as a tithe of who we are recognizing our littleness and His greatness. Spiritual songs odes and songs sung speaking of historical God, His disciples, doctrine, prophecy, etc. Notice Paul did not stop with only lip service. He said the children of God sing these songs of faith while filled with the Spirit. This contrasts with the songs of the drunk. The songs of Christians while filled with the Spirit are not obscene of profane. These songs sung together by God’s children make a melody that is pleasing to the Lord from the heart. This singing is not lip service, but reaches into the heart and erupts forth in soulful songs to God. A unity occurs within the body of Christ as they speak, sing, and make melody to God. Unity occurs, too, within the individual Christian between his or her heart (their inward affection) and his or her voice (the outward expression of mental assent). These services use the whole – body, heart, mind, and soul. Paul said that while we are speaking and singing of these three elements of faith, we must “always be giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Christ to God, even the Father” (vs. 20). When we are singing praises to God, we cannot escape thanking God. These two go hand in hand. When we recite the history of faith, we must thank God for being there. When we speak of doctrine, an urge of the heart is in a person to thank God for what He has done in providing for and saving us. Thanks go hand in hand with each of these parts of speaking and singing.

Paul gave one other act that comes with the Spirit’s infilling a person– being subject to one another in fear of Christ” (vs. 21). Teachers and preachers speak of this word “subject” most often as “submission.” Many people balk at this word and refuse in their minds to be under submission to someone else. It speaks of the servitude of one person to another. In the history of humankind, taskmasters enforced this servitude upon other people making them a lower caste of person. Paul and Jesus did not mean this kind of submission. The words “subject” and “submission” come from the Greek word hupotasso. This word is a voluntary yielding of one’s self to another person, a teaching, admonition, or advice. People submit themselves to other people to  cooperate in reaching a goal. Subjecting is a mutual action. There are requirements upon the one to whom a person submits him or herself. The leader/chairperson/boss/preacher must be obedient to ensure the attainment of the goal, too. He or she is accountable/responsible to the organization/church/employer/committee for his or her actions in attaining the goal as well as accountable to the persons who have submitted themselves to him or her for the task. For instance, in a church, at the most basic level, the members of the church who have called a pastor to lead them as the local body of Christ are to submit (give) themselves to the pastor’s authority in building up the church, reaching the lost, and following the leading of God. The pastor is to submit/give him or herself to the body of the church as a humble shepherd leading them to follow Christ. He or she is to submit him or herself to God as he or she leads to church, too. This means the pastor is accountable to the church and to God. Likewise, as a part of the body of Christ, each member of the church is accountable to God and to the church. Submission is a mutual voluntary yielding of one’s will to meet the goal of the group. Paul described what submission is in verse 21. Submission is a two-way thing – being in obedience to another as your choice and being accountable/responsible to God for those who are subject to you. Paul gave more definition of what this subjection is in 5:22-6:9. He gave pertinent examples of submission in these later verses.

Paul gave three common examples of relationships during the time he wrote this letter to the Ephesians – husband and wife, children and parent, and master and slave. We must note, though, that Paul stated in 5:32, “This mystery (man and woman leaving their parents to become husband and wife) is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” The examples Paul gave in the letter to the Ephesians about submission/subjection lead us back to the relationship of Christ to the church, the bridegroom and the bride. This important verse is the key to true submission, Godly submission. The examples are what Paul used to shed light on godly submission and what Christ calls us to in relationship with Himself. We must notice another important point. Paul changed or “renewed” these three types of common relationships. He took common relationships of non-Jewish background, reminded the Ephesians they are children of God and explained how they are different, renewed, now. Now they and every Christian has the Spirit of God living within them, which comes because of the love of God and fills us with His love. God changed, renewed, these common to the way He intended by incorporating love for one another within them. This is very important for them back then and for us now. Without the love of God in these relationships and every relationship, an enforcer mentality of the one submitted to and a lower caste mentality by the one submitting or subjecting themselves to the “leader” is found. In the "old self" method of living, a unilateral act of submission is found, the lower person to the higher person. In the “new man” way of living with the Spirit residing in each person, a bi-lateral submission is found. This means that in the old way, the understood submitter the actor, does the will of the other. The leader does not submit to anyone, but enforces his or her will on the other person. In the new way, the submission is mutual, voluntary, and done by every person involved in the relationship. The Greek word hupotasso that Paul used here means this exactly. Every parties of the relationship are accountable to the other and to God. The responsibility for enacting this submission in a godly way is on both sides and they are each accountable to God for their own submission to the other person(s).

This understanding of “being subject” or “being submissive” from verse twenty-one transforms the old understood customs of relationship. In the remaining verses of chapter 5 and the first nine verses of chapter 6, Paul shows how the normal relationships are renewed/changed by God into the way He intended from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Now, in looking at the relationship between husband and wife, Paul said, “Wives, be subject/submissive to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (5:22). As Christians, husbands and wives are first to be submissive to God and this shows their love and reverence (fear) of the Lord. This fear is not like being afraid for our safety, but out of reverence. It shows the difference between the old way of relating to each other and the new way. We submit/subject ourselves to another because we revere them and hold them in esteem, which comes because of love and awe. Paul further stated, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body” (5:23). God set up the headship of a family like He did the headship of the local church and the universal church. He did not say they are to enforce their headship with punishment and aggression, but with love, as the definition of hupotasso shows. This verse shows, too, the husband is to be the head of the family like Christ is of the church. Christ loved His bride, the church so much that He died for them. This love of Christ is the love the husband is to have for his wife and family while he is administering the role God placed upon him. Paul stated this in verse twenty-four when he said, “But the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” God ordains the leaders who are then accountable to lead as Christ leads. Paul commanded this in verses twenty-five to twenty-six, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” In the dependent clause of this statement, Paul taught that Christ died for the church to sanctify her through His baptism of them, which came from His Gospel, the message of salvation and faith. This does not mean husbands sanctify the wives. Paul made sure to put the dependent clause after the action of Christ. Remember, Paul used these relationship examples to help the Ephesians and us to understand what godly submission is in regards to Christ.

Paul went further in his theological teaching here about Christ and the church. He stated that Christ sanctified the church so that “He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle (sin or flaw) or any such thing, but that she would be holy (hagios – a saint) and blameless.” This washing of the church Paul spoke of by Christ is reminiscent of the bathing in oils and perfumes a bride went through before her wedding day in biblical times. Christ washed the church with His blood when each person accepted His salvation, forgiveness, and Lordship. He made His bride, the church, holy and blameless. Christ forgave her sins so that she was completely clean so that she was a sweet aroma to the Groom, Christ. These verses speak of Jesus’ work for the church. A husband cannot spiritually cleanse his wife the same way Jesus cleanses the church, but he can take an active, caring interest in his wife’s spiritual health, like the pastor or shepherd of the home. So Paul said, “Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies” like Christ does His body, the church (vs. 28). “He who loves his own wife loves himself, for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church because we are members of His body” (vs. 28). Paul went back to the focus being on Christ and His bride. He likened the church of Christ being the bride and Jesus Christ as being the bridegroom. The people understood this relationship and Paul told them how much Christ loved them, His bride. In relation, they should love and cherish their wives so that the submission is a sweet aroma and not an onerous command for the wife. God’s love is what changes the relationships of humankind. What was once an enforced relationship of taskmaster and servant became a voluntary, mutual love relationship of mutual submission between both parties and God.

Before Paul continued with the other two common types of relationships (parent and child and master and slave), he reminded his hearers and readers of what he taught them. He reminded them of what God ordained in Genesis 2:24, which says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” Then, Paul restated what he taught just before, “This mystery (about husband and wife in Genesis 2:24) is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (emphasis is mine).” The relationship between Christ and the church consists of the Spirit, faith, and a natural bond like husband and wife. Paul stated that he taught about Christ and His relationship to His bride using this example of the renewed husband and wife relationship. Paul pointed them back to the theme of this section of his letter, Christ and His bride. This husband wife relationship shows that Jesus wants more than just an external surface relationship. He wants to be one with us, His bride. Additionally, it shows that Jesus was, in a sense, incomplete without us (remember God created us to be in a relationship with Him), just as Adam was incomplete without Eve. Ephesians 1:23 says this of the church, His body, the fullness of Him who fills every believers. These relationships of husband and wife and Christ and the church show the common connection of unity and oneness in the two relationships. Remember in chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5, Paul spoke of unity and oneness in the church. He still spoke of it here in this relationship of Christ to His church.

At the end of chapter 5, Paul stated this renewed relationship by Christ in this way, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” The key ingredient then, as Paul stated, is love. The husband is to love his wife as himself. The word translated "respect" in our language is the Greek word phobeo, which means to reverence/fear/be in awe of someone. Reverence means to love and esteem someone. So, the wife must love and esteem her husband. This renewing of the husband and wife relationship comes by God through Jesus Christ’s salvation of humankind. The renewing returns love to the relationship. To take this relationship back to Paul’s point, the wife is synonymous with church, Christ’s bride, and Christ is the bridegroom. The church must love Christ, which means each member must be cherished and nurtured by the other members of the church and each member must individually and jointly nourish and cherish the church and love Christ, the husband of the church, as He loves us. By nurturing and cherishing members of the church, Christians love Christ and submit to Him. Each of us must voluntarily subject/submit ourselves to Him because of our love for Him, which comes from His love for us.

This whole section is about the church’s and each individual member’s relationship with Christ. Paul arrived at this point as he explained how not to be taken in by false teachers. He spoke to the Ephesians and “faithful followers” so they would grow and edify each other, be unified, and grow in strength through their relationship with God and each other. So, Paul stated the way to be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in His love is not to be like the world, immoral, impure, and greedy, speaking with obscene and foolish talk, and deceiving with empty words and false teachings. Instead, walk as children of the Light in goodness, righteousness, and truth by exposing everything to the light of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit. In addition, be wise how you use your time and understand what the will of the Lord is. Be in assembly and fellowship with fellow Christians speaking and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual sons making melody with your lips and heart to the Lord. Most importantly, be subject to one another (other Christians) in the fear, reverence, and love of Christ.

This takes us to the point of our own considerations now. Do you know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior? Are you in a submissive relationship with Him founded on love? If you do not know or know you are not, pray to God asking Him to show Himself to you. Speak to a local Christian pastor about how to become a follower of Christ - be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self – and become joined to Christ and His body in love, respect, and esteem living in submission to the will of God.

What do you need to do?

Ask Jesus into your heart as the Savior of your soul and forgiver of your sin.

Ask Him to show you a Christian church family where you can individually and jointly be in relationship with Christ and be in submission to His will.