Studies in Ephesians. Presentation 13. The Structure of the Book. Be what you are in Christ. See what you are in Christ. Chap 4-6. Chap 1-3. Doctrine Truth. Application. Incentives to Holiness Chap 5.5-17. Introduction.
Be what you are in Christ
See what you are in Christ
Does a donkey respond best to a carrot or a stick? The business world has learned the vital importance of incentives for its workforce.
Job descriptions often contain information about conditions, bonuses, holidays etc. But the really successful employer knows how to encourage loyalty and pride in his firm.
It is part of our human make-up that in addition to having a job, we need reasons for doing it; motives to inspire us to a sense of creative fulfilment.
Paul not only outlines our obligations to God but now turns our attention to those things, which should motivate us.
Verses 5-7 seem out of place at this point in the epistle, especially since Paul has earlier discussed the believers’ assurance of salvation.
Paul in not now teaching is that access to heaven is only
gained if we meet a certain standard – he has already
taught that salvation cannot be earned.
Nor is he teaching that if we commit any of these sins
we are automatically excluded from heaven. When
Christians sin and afterwards humbly repent, the door
of forgiveness is open to them. What is in view here is
the immoral or impure person, who has wilfully chosen
never to forsake his sin. The person who is happy in the
environment of sin
These verses are here lest Christians are deceived by those who say, “God is too kind to condemn anyone - everyone will go to heaven, irrespective of their behaviour on earth”.This teaching is called ‘Universalism’. Those who hold to this teaching say:
“Great! It doesn't matter how I live, I can be as immoral, selfish and rebellious, as I want.
I can defy heaven and curse God.
Why? Because God’s loving
nature obliges him to give
me a place in heaven”.
There is a more subtle deception. There are those who at some point in their lives have made some sort of commitment to God, perhaps during an alpha course, or by signing a commitment card after a big Christian rally, or after watching a Christian TV programme.
Having done so they then heave a sigh of relief,
and think that there is nothing to stop them from continuing to live in their former sinful way of life,
as described in these verses. They have a ticket for heaven, immunity from judgment –they think - so why bother with holiness.
Paul says to those who think like that:
“I have bad news for you, there is no place for you in heaven, for it is clear that you have no genuine experience of God’s grace and therefore you have no protection from God's wrath.
Therefore you are not as safe as you think!”.
Professing Christians in Ephesus are being
discouraged from feeling safe and at home in
a sinful environment.
With good reason Peter writes in 2Pet1.10
“make your calling and election sure”
And this is done by uprooting sin and
cultivating Christian virtues in our lives.
Secondly, the Christian’s new relationship with God
should encourage holy living cfv8. ‘once you were
IN darkness and now you are IN light’.
Their behaviour should reflect their new relationship
in Christ. God's reputation is at stake.
A Scottish soldier stationed in Stirling was walking
down the street in uniform while eating an ice cream.
An annoyed pedestrian rebuked him for doing so
while wearing regimental dress. He was told he had
Brought his regiment’s name into disrepute.
The Christian wears the regimental dress of Christ.
He is identified as belonging to him and therefore
should be on his guard lest by his sinful behaviour
he bring Christ’s name into disrepute.
What does it mean to live as “children of light”?
It means living a life that shines with all that is
good and right and true, for these fruits grow
in the light. The fruit we produce reflects the environment that we belong to. Some plants
have very specific growing requirements and
will not thrive in dark shady conditions.
So it is with the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is produced when we walk in the light of fellowship with Jesus.
We must make every effort to discover what kind of lifestyle will bring pleasure to God. Just as the gardener will ask his employer what fruit crops he most enjoys, we too are find out what crops will bring delight to God’s heart.
Paul has more than that in mind in his use of the word "light" v11 ff... Light is designed to expose darkness. What does he mean? A lot can be hidden by darkness. Imagine entering a cinema while a film is being shown. You sit down in what you think is a pleasant environment . When the film finishes and the bright house lights come
on you are ankle deep in peanut shells. Chewing gum
is stuck on your seat. And you feel very itchy! What
produces this reaction? Light!
Darkness hides ugly realities. Light makes them
visible. That is the effect the Christian should have
upon society. That is the effect that Jesus, the Light
of the World had in his day. Jesus’ light causes
many people to squirm. Cf. John 3.19
“Light has come into the world, but men loved
darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
As Christians we are called upon to expose deeds of darkness!
This means speaking out against what we know to be wrong. In v14 Paul summarises his teaching with an Old Testament quotation.
He says, ‘before you were converted it’s as though you were asleep, but now you’re awake. You are now aware as never before of the darkness in the world around you.
You are awake to injustice and sin in society
as never before. You are Christ’s light in the
world. Shine for him! You have the
responsibility of being salt and light
in the world. What motivation!
The Christians final motivation for holy living is found in v15-17. Paul's assumption is that the Christian is wise. We are called by God to live wisely. This wisdom should be evident in a number
of different areas.
First of all in the way we live. Men put a lot of thought,
time and energy into the things that really matter to
them, their, family, job, education, home, and hobbies...
Similarly, the Christian is to direct his thought, time and
energy into his Christian life.
One translation of v15 reads,
"Be most careful then how you conduct yourselves,
as sensible men not as simpletons".
Secondly, we are to make the most of our time v16. Wise people know time is precious. Once it is passed it can never be reclaimed. Somebody once advertised as follows;
"LOST, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minute. No reward offered for they are gone forever.”
Jonathan Edwards one of America's greatest
theologians wrote as a young man of 19 a
number of famous resolutions.
Here is the 70th
"Resolved: never to lose one moment of
time, but to improve it in the most
profitable way I can".
Thirdly, wise people discern the will of God v17. Jesus taught us to pray, "May your will be done on earth as in heaven". Nothing is more important than discovering God's will. God cares what happens to us.
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to
prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a
future”. Jeremiah 19.11 It matters to God what we do with our lives.
We can distinguish between the general will of God and his particular will. It is his general will that we all become like
Christ but his particular will concerns
what career should we follow,
whom should we marry, where we
should stay, what church we
should belong to etc.