Ephesians 4 December, 2015
When composing the letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul followed the pattern he often used. First, he taught sound doctrine clearly and persuasively. Second, he made practical applications from those Christian doctrines. Thus, Ephesians 4 begins with the application, "I ... beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love." This is a Christian life modeled after Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ prayed for unity among the disciples who had followed Him for 3-1/2 years. No doubt the high priestly prayer of John 17 included the Church for the next 2,000 years and beyond. This unity must be solidly based on sound doctrine. For example, read Ephesians 4:4-6 - ONE - Body (the church), Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father of all. These are core doctrines. There can be no real spiritual unity with any group denying the truth of these points. If persons agree on the major doctrines of the "faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are "companions" of all who "fear the LORD and of those who keep His commandments" (Psalm 119:63). Sometimes when listening to Christian radio, I will "talk" to the preacher who declares a Biblical truth to be so and call him my "companion" in the faith-even if he is not a Baptist.
Then, to guard the faith, the apostle explained the necessity of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers (4:11). They were God-given to "equip" the saints so that they are trained and ready to do the work of ministry/serving the Lord and building up the faith in the hearts of God's people (4:12). Why? for that true "unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" to form a strong, robust, and mature faith in each believer (4:13).
Why guard the faith? In Ephesians 4:17-32 there are tough spiritual battles to be fought. First, put off the old lifestyle consisting of lewdness, immorality, greed, and deceitful lusts (4:17-20). In particular, Paul commanded the Christians to stop lying, control anger, quit stealing, clean up their language, stop grieving the Holy Spirit, as well as quit being bitter, wrathful, loud and quarrelsome, and filled with malice (4:26-31).
Second, be renewed in the spirit of your mind "in true righteousness and holiness" (4:20-24). That included being truthful, an honest and generous worker, of wholesome speech, and "kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (4:26-32).
These behaviors are what it Paul meant when he told them to "walk worthy of the calling" of Jesus Christ to follow Him. Lord, help me and my readers to walk worthy of your call on their lives today.
Pastor Ed Anderson
Sometimes life can be complicated. Sometimes the will of God is quite clear. Paul and Barnabas could testify to that. In this context Luke introduces us to Silas. As his life work unfolded at the end of chapter 15 and carried on for the rest of the book, Silas could say a heartfelt "Amen!" to that. The Christian life is both clear and complicated as we will see in chapter 16.
To our knowledge, Silas had made no plans beyond Antioch. He expected to "exhort and strengthen the brethren with many words" (Acts 15:32-33). Silas knew what God wanted him to do and did it. Being a prophet (verse 32), he was well-acquainted with the Old Testament, Messianic prophecies, and God's call to evangelize Gentiles. Having observed the wonderful ministry of Silas, Paul chose him to replace Barnabas as his fellow missionary evangelist (Acts 15:40-41). That was a great choice.
After delivering the Jerusalem Church Council's four-fold decision on Christian liberty, Paul and Silas arrived in the territory of Galatia. Not receiving a clear command from God, they tried to go north-no, the Spirit of God did not permit that. Then the Spirit of God would not let them go east or south. Now what? Well, God had called them to missionary evangelism. Only one direction was not tried, go west! They made the journey west right away. Once they "got west" and stopped in Troas, it was then and only then that God made it clear that they were on the right track (Acts 16:9-10). Can we walk by faith depending on God to confirm His answer? God soon led them to Lydia who responded to the Gospel by faith alone.
What to do about a problem? It was bothering Paul and Silas that when they walked around Philippi that a slave girl kept shouting with a nasty voice, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). Should Paul ask God to make her stop it? Should he ignore it? On a particular day it came to a head-he was "greatly annoyed" (16:18). In the name of Jesus, he cast out the evil spirit from her. That "spirit of divination" meant "a spirit of python" possessing her. Python was a serpent at Delphi which was destroyed by the so-called god Apollo (Criswell Study Bible notes).
That decision led to a night in the jail. Paul ruined her "masters" (handlers) get-rich-quick money scheme. This led to another decision: should Paul reveal that he was a Roman citizen or not? Roman citizenship had special rights. One was this - no trial, no punishment. The magistrates ordered the apostles to be beaten severely. In another confrontation, Paul had stopped the whipping by identifying his citizenship (Acts 22:25-29). Paul did not stop it. The "jail birds" sang praises to God at midnight, and the prisoners and the jailer heard the Gospel. A great thing happened. The jailer and family were all converted!
We can see that God is sovereign over every facet of life. He will work all things (even bad things) for good in marvelous ways. Let's let God decide what we should do and wait patiently on Him to do it in His time and way.
Pastor Ed Anderson