(continued from yesterday)…Or else Paul might have continued his interrupted train of thought in verse one of this chapter. “As a prisoner for the Lord…” he begins. Remember that the first verse of chapter 3 was a reference to Paul as a prisoner too – and then Paul changed the subject! Ephesians is categorised as one of the ‘Prison Letters’, since it is highly likely that Paul was under house arrest in Rome (see Romans 28), and therefore a literal prisoner.
If the first three chapters of Ephesians are a masterpiece of doctrinal teaching, chapters four to six are an amazing outworking of these doctrines in term of a holy lifestyle. If we genuinely believe 1 – 3, we will certainly live out 4 – 6. “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”.
The practical advice begins and ends with a call to humility and gentleness, to patience and to love, to kindness and to compassion, mixed with forgiveness. We are all too often harsh and uncaring with one another, showing a lack of respect and failing to recognise the presence of Christ in each one of us (Matthew 25). Let’s resolve to put that right!
We are united – as we have already seen – but we need to ‘make every effort’ to keep united. There is nothing automatic about unity, it needs tending, just like a great landscape garden needs it. Since there is one body of Christ, and one Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father, we will have to learn to share!
This doesn’t mean that we are identikit ‘clones’ of one another. We have different grace and different giftings from God. These giftings are designed to unite the body and to build up each and every member of it to be more like Christ. There are major ‘leadership’ giftings that are key in equipping all God’s people to work hard and serve effectively. The goal is for all of us to become so close to Christ and to one another that we cannot see any gap between us.
A mature church will know the truth and speak the truth. The goal of all teaching is to turn ordinary people into people just like Jesus. Instead of asking ‘What would Jesus do?’, we should ask ‘What will Jesus do?’. This new lifestyle involves discarding our old ways and putting on new ways – changing our attitudes and imitating the Master. It is not enough to ‘give up’ evil things, they must be replaced by ‘good things’ – or else the evil habits will slowly return to a ‘house swept clean’ (Luke 11:25).
So it is ‘falsehood’ off and ‘truthfulness’ on. ‘Stealing’ off and ‘hard work’ on. ‘Crude talk’ off and ‘edifying talk’ on. Did we realise that even God can be ‘grieved’ (v30)!!! Yes, God has feelings too. Let us show our heavenly Father some respect.
ISAIAH 59, 60, 61, 62 and 63
A quick trip in our time machine and we have travelled back to 750 BC, to Isaiah’s day again. But there is a strange sense of déjà vu, since he is prophesying material that we have just seen fulfilled in Jesus’ day.
Isaiah 59 reassures us that God’s arms are sufficiently long, and his hearing is great. The problem is that we are hiding out of sight and keeping very quiet. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden after That Sin! It is so obvious that sin is the barrier between us and God; to call upon God whilst deliberately carrying on sinning is like being locked in an anechoic chamber and yelling at the top of your voice! Futile! And don’t blame the Lord, either.
The result of this is not only that our relationship with God is put on hold, but that society suffers too: “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honest cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey” (Isaiah 59:15). If you want a job done properly, sometimes you have to do it yourself…”So his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him…” (16).
The solution to our own dilemma? “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins, declares the Lord”. Even from within the depths of our self-imposed sound-proof chamber, if we open the door marked ‘Repentance’ (admitting to God that we have got it wrong and that he knows best and that from now on he is Boss and that we are sorry and would he graciously forgive us please) then the sound of our voice suddenly reaches heaven, like the piercing cry of an anguished baby – it is un-ignorable!
Things improve very quickly after that, and once an individual or a church of individuals get right with God, the rules seem to change dramatically. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you…” (Isaiah 60:1-) All of a sudden, good things start to happen; you find favour not only with God but with the surrounding nations, with high-ranking rulers, royalty, and even Premiership footballers (actually that last bit is not even in The Message!). These foreign nations will be in awe of us and will help us to rebuild not only ourselves but the whole of society. God will bless us richly: “Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations – their kings led in triumphal procession” (60:11). It reads like Revelation 21:22-27 (have a look!). This is clearly not going to be completely fulfilled in the present age but will be a feature of the Age to Come. But I do believe that a lot of these features will occur before Jesus returns.
“The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly” (60:22) It is Christ who builds his church, growing it through discipleship, power evangelism and the attractiveness of good works. We should expect that we will be part of a rapidly growing body of believers that reaches out to our broken society and meets all its needs – with God’s strength.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me…” so said Jesus as he read from the scroll of Isaiah in his hometown synagogue. The first few verses of Isaiah 61 are clearly therefore Messianic. Jesus was anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, release from darkness for the prisoners, and to announce the Year of the Lord’s Favour. These last two events are symbolic of the Year of Jubilee, occurring every 50 years, when all debts were wiped, all prisoners set free, all slaves released, and inheritances restored. The age of the gospel, between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming (date and time t.b.a.) is effectively the New Covenant’s equivalent of the Year of Jubilee. Jesus did not quote the remainder of verse 2: “…and the day of vengeance of our God”, since that will happen at his second coming, rather than his first coming.
There are many other great verses in chapters 60, 61, and 62; for now, I will just mention one more: “I have posted watchmen on you walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest, until he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (62:6-7). Those watchmen are us. This is a call to prayer! As we serve God faithfully and pray consistently, we hasten the day of His Return and fulfilment of all his promises.