Ephesians– overview of 3:1-9; tapping into the power of God, part 12.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
Title: Ephesians– overview of 3:1-9; tapping into the power of God, part 12.
Human power, which is minus God’s power, inevitably has self as its ultimate goal, and so results in sin.
One cannot do the will of God without God’s power. Obey His will in all things and you will be empowered by God.
Hence, God has made it quite simple for us. Though we may struggle with obeying God’s commands, obedience is simple in concept and it excludes all excuses.
It is true that the best preparation for any future world is to do thoroughly well the duties of our present state. But the whole question remains, “What are the duties of the present state?” Are they secular or spiritual? By secular we mean the tendency to forget the ideal and the character and destiny of man and to measure all things by material standards; to be more deeply impressed with the conquests of the sword than with those of the Spirit, and with the gains that are counted in coin rather than with those seen in character; and to be for more intensely interested in whatever concerns politics than in anything that concerns the church. Secularism is certainly the way of the world.
So, what are the duties of the present state? These cannot be determined unless we come to the decision as to the truth or untruth of Christianity. If the God of the Bible is the one true God, it is not merely the future, but now, that we have duties to Him, and that all our duties are influenced by His presence and our relation to Him. It is absurd to defer all consideration of duty to God to the future world; God is as much in this world as in any: and if so, our whole life, in every part of it, must be, not a secular, but a godly life – a life we live well and can only live well when we live it in communion with Him, His mind and His way.
The mind that can divide life into duties of the present and duties that concern the future entirely misapprehends the teaching of Christianity, and misconceives what life is.
To do our duty at all times in light of heaven is to do them to our best, owing to the presence and accepting the gracious, sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. A secular man may do some things better than I, though I do them by the power of the Spirit, but he does not do them as well as he could.
Watch Paul’s use of power in 2Co 4. It is his faith and his faith’s proclivity to doing God’s will where he finds power.
2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Liberty is the birthright of the child of God. It is the freedom to be good and do good without following laws, meaning, without just going through the motions. Bad people can keep laws, therefore keeping laws is something that the flesh can do, but living free to do good in anything that comes your way, even the most unexpected thing, is the life of the mature child of God, which we all are to be.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh [to work under law], but through love serve one another.
Christian liberty is more than doing something or not doing something, but knowing goodness and life and living that in all things we find ourselves in. It is not doing a particular thing procedurally, but doing everything, which in each life is unique, in pure goodness.
2Co 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2Co 4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,
2Co 4:2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Paul and the men and women involved in his ministry (ultimately meaning all of us) were given a ministry, but not a ministry alone. It was a ministry, and the Holy Spirit, and mercy. They didn’t do everything perfectly, they weren’t sinless, but they had the mercy of God through the forgiveness of God and so they did not lose heart. If they did everything right and everything worked out great there would be no temptation to ‘lose heart.’
Paul first came to Corinth after dismal failure in Athens. Not that Paul failed sinfully, but that the gospel failed to find many believers. In Athens, Paul had tried to meet the Athenians on their own ground, showing his familiarity with their gods and their writers. The failure of the Athenians to believe remained with Paul as he entered the city of Corinth weak and dispirited.
And in Corinth, rather than appealing to what he knew of their culture, he tells them, “I determined to know nothing among you except Christ crucified.”
In the Greek world that Paul had been ministering to for months, his efforts made a deep impression on him. He himself saw so clearly the foolishness of the cross; he quickly came to know very well that a field of mockery was presented to the Greek mind by preaching of a salvation through a crucified Person. Even Paul’s appearance he knew, to them who venerated their young strong men in the games, was weak and contemptable. Yet, all things considered, Paul made up his mind to trust his success to the simple statement, “Christ and Him crucified.”
And this message met with great success.
1Co 1:18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
He could easily have written “the word of God,” or, “the word of truth,” but he is specific to call it “the word of the cross,” for the truth is nothing to us without the cross of Christ. All of the written word points to it. There is no wisdom without it. The cross where Christ died for us spiritually, taking all of our sins upon Himself, securing our entrance into His life, is the ultimate truth.
To the believer the word of the cross is the power of God, but to the wise in this world, which to Paul then were the educated Greeks, the word of the cross was foolishness, meaning that there might be some things in the word of God that the Greek might consider noble, as in the omnipotence of God and the judgment of God, but the cross was pure foolishness. Yet, without it, we have no introduction to know anything about God.
1Co 1:19 For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside."
It will be edifying to each of us to explore this quoted passage in Isa 29. When wonders when this passage came to Paul’s mind. Did he recall it when he was in the midst of despondency over failure in Athens?
First is the beautiful imagery of a man who has the true message in his hands but he cannot read it.
Isa 29:11 And the entire vision [the great warning of coming judgment] shall be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, "Please read this," he will say, "I cannot, for it is sealed."
Isa 29:12 Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, "Please read this." And he will say, "I cannot read."
Isa 29:13 Then the Lord said,
"Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
Isa 29:14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the discernment of their discerning men shall be concealed."