Tuesday, March 21st, 2023
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the Fourth Week of Lent
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Derickson's Notes on Selected Books Derickson on Selected Books
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ sdn/ ephesians-3.html.
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/
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Section Five: 3:1-12
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
Some commentaries suggest that "For this cause" is really the introduction phrase to verse thirteen. All the information in between is supposed to be a rabbit trail that he runs off on because he is so excited about the information. True he was excited about it, but whether it was merely a rabbit trail or not I am not overly sure. Since the Holy Spirit is inspiring him, I would suggest if it is parenthetical that it is most certainly an insertion of the Spirit rather than a random thought Paul succumbed to in his excitement.
The order of Christ’s names is actually reversed in the Greek and should appear as Christ Jesus which gives emphasis to the Messiahship of the Lord and point to the prisonership being due to the Jews actions against him for preaching to the Gentiles a Gospel of Christ.
Paul mentions he is a prisoner for the Gentiles, yet in Acts 28:17-28 he tells the Jews he is a prisoner for Israel. Well which is it? In verse twenty of the Acts text he says, "For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see [you], and to speak with [you]: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."
Later in the Acts passage it is clear that the Jews were deaf to the Gospel, while Paul was commissioned to go to the Gentiles for they will listen.
I think that verse one tells the Gentiles he was a prisoner for them - as he was a prisoner for the Jews - he is a prisoner because he is preaching the Gospel and in the specific context of Acts it is because of the Jews accusations that he was a prisoner. Here he is a prisoner because he was preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles - the Gospel being the prime motivator, but specifically to the Gentiles because they are the people Paul was told to go to with the Gospel. This is not to say that he didn’t preach to Jews at every opportunity. He normally went to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles.
Paul says, "for this cause" to tie this statement to the previous context - the context of the unity between Jew and Gentile believers and the fact that we are one body, one building, and one church. This is what Paul lived and ministered for, this is what motivated Paul, and this is what He knew Christ wanted him to do in life.
And to the application, just when is the last time you suffered so that you could witness to anyone? We often refrain from our duty of being a light house so that we can remain secure. The lighthouse keeper weathered all storms so that the sailors could be secure. We are to be light houses, not secure. If we need to take a fall in order to witness, then we should if that is the situation God places us in.
Some say that you should witness at work. Well, if you can do it in the context of not taking time and effort away from your employer, yes, but we should not slight our employer so that we can witness. Of course after work, before work, and on break we are free to voice our witness - and we should as we have opportunity. To not witness so that we aren’t spoken ill of, or so that we aren’t thought ill of is not the trait of a believer that is to be the light of the world.
1. In verse one we saw that Paul was committed to the Gentiles, and more specifically the Gospel of Christ. I would suggest that you think along the following line for a moment. What would you have done in life if God had not called you to the ministry in which you are in? What might have been? What could you have accomplished in life if God had not stepped in and given you specific direction?
I ask your consideration of this because in late life it is not uncommon for a person to question just what might have been. I want you to understand that this is not wrong, it is not sin, unless you dwell upon it day after day and find yourself side tracked. It is normal for a person to take stock of their life, to consider what was, what is and what might have been. Even in secular jobs, people question the choices that they have made and the life that they have lived. It isn’t wrong, it is normal.
I have to admit I have taken some time to consider where I might have ended up if I hadn’t accepted the call to ministry. I’ve considered how easy it would have been, I’ve considered the position I might have attained, I’ve considered the financial situation I could have been in had I been working at a professional position, I’ve considered what was, and what is and am not overly impressed with what is, but then I am not overly impressed with what might have been either. I can’t imagine a life lived not following God’s direction. I can’t imagine being anything to be impressed with. I might have become rich, I might have become of high position, and I might have become one with tons of friends, but I would not have become what God wanted me to be and I would not have become friends with Him that has called me.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, I like what is in my life a lot better than what might have been.
Take time if you wish to consider what was, is and is to come, but don’t dwell on it, don’t reconsider your life because you have failed - if you have followed God, then you are in the best place you can possibly be - even if you are as Paul - in prison.
At the end of life I trust you are with Christ rather than with yourself.
And for those that are not following God or His direction, I would encourage you to consider these same things with the twist - what might be if you were with God and not by yourself - these are some important considerations to not only think on, but to dwell on and to consider very seriously. Many I have heard that have said, that they wished that they would have followed God rather than their career - by the time you realize it it is too late, so consider it while you have opportunity to do some course changing.
2. In verse eight we saw the statement of Paul, "that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;" where he declares that he has a message to preach, the message of the unsearchable riches of Christ. Compare that statement to some of the preaching we hear today. Are we the congregations of America hearing of the riches of Christ or are we hearing of the fuzzy wuzzy thoughts of man? Are we hearing the riches of Christ or are we hearing of the ideas and philosophies of the fathers? Are we hearing the riches of Christ or are we hearing of the social injustice and social should be? Paul was preaching the riches of Christ - the decree, the work of Christ, the election of the saints and all those grand points of theology that our faith is founded upon, yet we hear the namby pamby tripe of the pulpits of today.
When Christ is mentioned, all too often it is what the person has done for Christ, when the church is mentioned it is normally the church that the speaker built rather than the one Christ built. When we hear of doctrine and theology it is usually in a demeaning light, something to be rejected because people dwell on it too much.
Paul knew the riches of Christ and knew that the Ephesian believers needed to understand those riches, the riches which were heavy doctrine, not simple topics of the day to humor and interest a flock of unbelievers that someone gathered together so they could preach the gospel to them.
The church is for training saints, not converting the lost. The individual believers are to go out winning the lost and bringing them to the church for training, not bringing the lost to the church so the preacher can save them. Where have we gone so wrong, when did this flip flop occur - when preachers decided they knew better than God, how to run His church.
3. Verse ten mentions, "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God," There is an application that is loosely related to this verse. Today in 2004 we have a situation where the church is beginning to be placed in a position to realize that persecution is coming for the American Christian. Prior to these recent years the country has been morally on the side of Christians. Indeed most would agree that there was until recently a majority of believers in this country. Today, however, the tide has turned and the morally right are no longer the majority. Those that do not agree to our moral values are now in the lead and they are leading a strong battle to subjugate the believer.
Christian’s rights are being attached right and left in the school systems, in the courts and in the work place. A witch can spew her venom in the workplace, but let a Christian speak of Christ and they will be labeled as divisive if not fired. Let a child take a New Testament to school and they will be rebuffed, if not expelled. Courts are ruling against small Bible studies being held in homes, in fact it is illegal in some communities.
The point being, it is time that some of the believers of our day take the time and effort to prove to the principalities and powers that the wisdom of God has a right to exist and that it is an alternative lifestyle to the corrupt pagan lifestyles presented today as the norm.
I am pleased to see the uprising of Christians to this blatant attempt to quiet our Lord’s message. It is of interest that governments and corporations are preaching and teaching diversity - that idea that all thoughts are of equal value and that we all should get along - all except Christian thoughts and values - they are to be banned from government and the work place. We give freedom for pagans to speak their minds, we give freedom for Muslim’s to speak their minds, and we give freedom for all to speak their minds, except the Christian who is "ramming their beliefs down their throats, or proselytizing."
Have we no rights because we are Christians - this is the way our country is going - if you don’t see this, start reading the newspaper, and listening to the news. Christian clubs are not being allowed on some college grounds, even though they have pagan, homosexual and immoral clubs of every shade. The country is rejecting the morals of God for those that they "feel" fit their lifestyle. And why not, that is what our tax dollars have been financing in the public school system - find the life and ideas you like and go with them, no matter where they come from or how right or wrong they might be. What does right and wrong have to do with living is the question - the answer - nothing, according to the world.
There is talk of legislation that would make it a hate crime to make any derogatory statement against anyone else. In short a preacher could not speak out against homosexuality from the pulpit without committing a hate crime. He could no longer speak of the paganism of the world, he could not speak of the Muslim as being lost, or the Buddhist being wrong.
Wake up believing America, your rights are being trampled upon by the "diversity" philosophy of our country. We, as a country, want to be accepting of all peoples and ideas - except those that follow God and the Bible. Now, if that isn’t hateful I don’t know what is.
The wisdom of God is the only chance for mankind. We are the deliverers of that message and we need to get busy doing it before it is outlawed - as it is in some countries today.
4. Verse eleven mentions, "eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:" The item that seems to be much hidden in this verse is so obvious. "Our Lord" is a statement that most today have no concept of - there is no lordship relation between many believers and Christ today. This is sad since this is the most important relationship after that of His being Savior.
He purchased us with His blood to have us for a possession, yet we live as though He has no claim on us. We live as we are our own to do with and do as we want. This is not true. We are His, fact, but we have to submit to that relationship. This is the step by which we say yes, to allowing Him to have control over our lives, to allow Him to use us as He wills, and to direct our lives in detail.
It is not to say that if we allow Him His Lordship that he will have us serve in darkest Africa, it only means that we will do as He wills. It may be to work full time and be a good church member, or it may be to serve a church as pastor - the what isn’t important, it is the fact that you have allowed Him to be Lord over your life.
I might suggest as a bit of a sidelight that at times He sets us aside for His purpose. We might be highly trained in one area and assume that is where we should serve, However, He may have other plans and those plans are just as important as any you could dream up. "Aside" may well be the most important part of your life - it is His will and His life that He is controlling - allow Him freedom to do as He wills.
If we have submitted to Him, and the Spirit has not convicted us of any sin and we are still not where we think we should be, then go with His leading and the situation He has placed you in. If you are "set aside" under these circumstances, you are exactly where He wants you. Don’t fret, don’t worry, don’t strain and grown to be elsewhere - He is Lord and knows what He wants.
This is not to say we will enjoy "aside" but we can know that is where we belong. I can’t imagine Moses enjoying the caring for sheep for all those years, yet that is just where God wanted him to be. Imagine, raised and educated in the court of Pharaoh and herding sheep. I can just imagine the conversations he had with himself on those long lonely nights wondering if he had missed the boat, if he had blown it with God, if he had gone too far away from the Lord for the Lord to lead him. No, all was well, and God knew perfectly well where he was when He wanted Him for leadership. (Exodus 2:1-25; Exodus 3:1-22)
Consider well your lordship relation to Christ and then hold onto the truth of that relationship for the rest of your life - it can be your rock to lean on. After all, Christ is the Rock and no other is better to lean on than He. (1 Corinthians 10:4)
5. Verse eleven also has another grand truth, "eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:" The "eternal purpose which he purposed" - that plan, that purpose, that decree that He set down in His mind before the foundation of the world.
Just contemplate that sometime when your mind is clear of the cares of the world. Then understand that you are in that plan and all that is rolled up in that little fact.
Sometimes we feel like we are the smallest of small in God’s plan, but remember - you are in God’s plan no matter how small you think you might be.
I read recently in the paper that someone had thanked one of the older ladies that were picking up dishes from tables in one of the large buffet type establishments. When the woman heard the thank you she simply replied that she was just doing her part to keep the world moving along. She knew she was a small part, but she knew she was a small part in a great big world, and not only that, she knew that she was a very important part in that big world for where would we be in America without those that pick up dishes and those that wash them? We would be in a bit of a mess for sure.
God included you in His overall plan to do a specific amount and type of work and He wants you to do it. Not that He can’t get along without you, but it is a plan that He has set to accomplish the maximum benefit and the fantastic part is that He included you and I to assist Him in what He wants to do.
There is a section in my theology on the decrees if you would like further information.
6. Verse eight tells us, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;"
Notice the attitude of the apostle toward his calling. Is it one of sadness? Is it one of disgust? Is it one of regret? Is it one of apathy? No, he seems to be excited about it - he calls it a grace, something worthwhile, something to be desired, something that offered him some benefit. How do you view your calling to be a witness for your Lord? Do you greet it as something you want to do? Do you greet it as a calling to serve your Lord? Do you greet it as something that will enhance your life? I trust that it is something you like to do at every opportunity.
This is not to say we will be excited about taking that step of courage to open the conversation. Most of us are very timid about witnessing and this is rather normal. Most do not have that natural ability of the one gifted as an evangelist to open spiritual conversations every time we open our mouths, but it is incumbent upon us to share our faith at every opportunity that opens to us.
Most of us could slip in a word of witness much more often than we do if we would only take the opportunity. If there is opposition then you can stop and all will be well, but if you do not start, then you will never know what the person’s response would have been.
If there is opposition, it is opposition to the Lord and the message, not to you personally. It is not uncommon for people to declare that they do not like proselytizing. To which you might suggest, well if I feel I have a message of truth that will save you from an eternity of suffering, wouldn’t it be my obligation to tell you? If the building was on fire, would you not expect me to holler "FIRE?"
7. I have mentioned over and over that we are a part of God’s decree. We need to really understand this and relax in that knowledge. As we realize He has a plan for our life, we can understand that all the problems that come along are to prepare us for living His plan. We don’t have to worry about when or where we will die, for we will die at the appointed place and time, nowhere else, and not at a time not appropriate.
Mr. Bradley in his book the "AVIATORS" discusses at length the first president Bush and his World War II experience. Bush was one of a number of pilots and crewmen that flew a raid over an island that was a very important target. A storm came up and they knew they would be fighting headwinds and that there was a likely chance that they would have no fuel for a return flight. The men went anyway.
Plans were made to fly on into China with what fuel remained. The raid was finished but the fuel was also finished and the crews bailed out near and over the island that they had just bombed. President Bush ordered his crew out of the plane and he waited in a burning plane to allow them time to bail out. He finally bailed out himself and parachuted into the water.
He was picked up by an American submarine that was on patrol nearby. He was the only member of his crew that survived. He related to the author that he had time on the submarine to wonder at the fact that he was the only one that had survived, and that he had a strong feeling that he had survived for a specific purpose. He became the president of the United States. It was not his time to die and God saw to it.
The rest of the crews were later killed on the island where they were held captive. Why one out of so many? Because of the decree of God - relax in the knowledge that He is just as concerned for you each and every day of your life.
I have never had such a definite knowledge that I was here for a purpose of any specific definition and have always wondered if God didn’t just save my worthless hide so that I would have a family. I have always had a deep thought that our family might well be the reason that we were saved and that we married. We were not the perfect married couple nor were we the perfect parents, but with our bumbling efforts at both, and God’s "often" intervention we turned out three great kids that married three other great kids and they have produced nine grandchildren. Quite something to consider what we have unleashed on the unsaved world. I often wonder at what all might be done in that short three generations.
I trust you never discount how important you are to God’s plan - He saved you for a reason and you need to walk with Him to see to it that you fulfill that work He has for you.
8. We saw in verse eight that Paul had a low view of himself and his position in the scheme of things. I would like to emphasize this a little more. I saw an ad for a book written by one of the television darlings of the spiritual airwaves advertising "THE MAN THAT MAKES THE SCRIPTURE LIVE!"
My last theology professor may have taught me wrong but he used to say that the Word was living. It was made alive by God, but here we see that this preacher makes it live. Which is it? Did God make His Word alive or does this particular high paid preacher make it live? I think you can make the proper choice and watch out for the flashy money grubbing advertising.
When someone starts lifting you up, you should know it is time for you to let yourself down to your knees and rethink how you relate to people.
It isn’t that people can’t look up to you as a good minister of the word, nor is it wrong for them to respect you, but when they start lifting you up it is time to reconsider.
9. Some in our day get discouraged with the poor results in their ministries. They become discouraged if they haven’t built a mega church in the first eighteen months of ministry. Often pastors leave after only the briefest of times due to the lack of growth. Some fail to realize that growth in some communities is near impossible.
I’m reminded of a small church on the plains of northern Wyoming. The church sat within a mile or so of the post office. A nice little building, well kept, and adequate for everyone in the area. You could drive for miles and not see a ranch house, only desolate plains.
They could not grow in that area if they had to. There were only a limited amount of people to draw from. This place was so out of the way, that the main road into Montana turned into the wagon trail of old, just two ruts in the grass.
This group realized what their church was and they were very happy to have it to gather in weekly for fellowship and nurturing. They realized that it was Christ that was in the business of building His church, not their straining and groaning to build theirs.
Here we have Paul the apostle, he had been given revelation, he knew his job, he knew his purpose, and no one was listening to him. He had to prove his credentials when he wrote the churches, he had to combat those that opposed him, yet he continued on in what he knew God wanted him to do.
This is the attitude that ministers of the Gospel need to have. They should do their work and leave the building up to God.
About thirty years ago I met a couple that was missionaries to Ireland. They had been there for a number of years. They retired and others went to replace them. Others have since replaced those folks and the work goes on today, even though there are only a handful of Irish believers in the churches there. The work over the years has resulted in two very small churches, but has also seen some converts that were trained and then they moved onto other towns and areas.
From man’s view, not much success, but in God’s view it is Christ building His church as He sees fit. Consider this attitude pastor of eighteen months that is considering moving onto a bigger work. This same story is playing itself out all over the world where people have been working for years, with little results.
Today we are plagued by the "cost effective" the "telephone survey" the hype of some of our organizations that will only start a large church rather than allow God to use them to build the church He wants.
Know you are called, know your calling, and let God use you where He places you.
10. Here we see Paul is a prisoner, for not what he had done criminally, but for what he had done for God - he had been preaching. There is a day coming if things don’t change when Christians in America will be finding themselves in jail for preaching.
Today in 2004 there are pastors in Australia that are facing jail time for preaching against homosexuality. This is not far off in our own country. Legislation has been introduced under which preaching against homosexuality could be construed to be a hate crime. If this is allowed, it won’t be far behind that preaching against any sin is a hate crime. If you start to preach against alcohol, it will be hateful preaching against the drinking segment of our society.
Don’t shirk your duty to preach the Word, stand for the Word that you believe in just as Paul.
Note, also that Paul lays his situation totally at the feet of God in that it was Paul’s response to God that placed him in this situation. It is the plan of God that Paul be what he is, and that he do what he was doing, thus the result of prison is not Paul’s fault, nor is it the fault of the Gentile converts he is writing to. It is simply the result of Paul doing as God had directed.
11. In verse five we are introduced to the concept of things not previously revealed to the follower of God. Now, that tweaks my interest greatly. I have known that concept, I was taught of progressive revelation, but this morning it crossed my mind that there may well be things that are not revealed to the church age saint as well. God has done this in the past, why would he not do it in the future?
We have some information about the millennium, but not a lot, so it is quite probable that new information will be revealed to those in that kingdom. We know that there will be some sort of sacrificial system in that dispensation, but we don’t know the use of it, or the meaning of it.
We should not feel we have it all, for we probably don’t. We know all we need to know, as did the Old Testament saint, but we may not know it all.
12. There is a minor point in verse five when it speaks of God revealing to the apostles and prophets. The ultradispensationalist suggests that the church did not start until Paul was on the scene because God revealed the church through him. Here however we see plural apostles as well as the prophets of the New Testament time receiving this revelation. The church started on the day of Pentecost, not at the conversion of Saul.
Some thoughts on how to properly interpret the gospels.
Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992
The importance of how you interpret a text was brought home to me many years ago in a graduate class where the professor would assign a text for study and then bring us together for a discussion. He was an expert at forming the class into the different positions that came from the study, and then pitting those groups against one another to show how poorly we had studied. He once assigned the text of Job 19:25-26 and asked us to determine what the text was about. The discussion went on for three class sessions before he taught the proper interpretation. There were three different views that seemed very good, yet all three groups failed to determine the context of the passage. Once the context was set before us we realized the meaning of the passage.
So it is in the gospels when you determine to interpret. The context, the audience and the speaker all go together to determine what age the information is meant for. There are some texts that are definitely for those living under the law, there are texts that are definitely for those that were going to live in the kingdom that Christ was offering, and there are texts that are for the coming church age. The question is, just which are which.
We submit the following as a guide to begin your interpretation of the gospels with.
1. Pay close attention to the context: For example Luke 10:1-3 is not for the church, but Matthew 28:16-20 is. Look at the context to determine.
2. Pay close attention to the recipient: If Christ was speaking to Jews, then the information is for Jews. If he was talking to Old Testament saints then He was not talking to you, however there may be some application to you since you are a saint. Just one outrageous example would be the account of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus wound up in bliss while the rich man ended in torment. Now, would we apply the rich man’s situation to ourselves - believers and the position of Lazarus to the lost of our day? NO!
3. Determine whether the principle is stated elsewhere in the New Testament: For example some might suggest because of Matthew 10:9-10 we should have no material possessions. "...provide neither gold, nor silver, nor copper in your purses, nor a bag for your journey neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet a staff...." This is not a principle for our day. It is not mentioned as a lifestyle anywhere in scripture. Indeed, Christ contrasts this Himself to another lifestyle for those in a different situation in Luke 22:35-36.
Don’t claim promises blindly. Look at the context, recipient and whether it is taught in the epistles before applying it to yourself. The epistles are for church use and we have no question about them, so they can assist us in determining other texts.
If the truth fits the general tenor of the epistles then it probably is usable for today. Christ spoke of meekness in the Sermon on the Mount which is definitely kingdom information.
The fruit of the Spirit seems to give that principle validity in our day so that meekness should be desired by the church age believer. The problem is that the meek shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Do the epistles mention that the church will inherit the earth? No, and indeed we will not inherit the earth. This is not a promise for us though we can draw the principle of meekness from it.
4. Determine what dispensation is in view: Christ made quite a promise in Matthew 6:33. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you." See, he will give me everything I want. That is the usual misinterpretation. First the context speaks of those needs of living that we have and not desires. Second, the promise is to the one that seeks His kingdom. The kingdom in Christ’s mind was the Jewish kingdom that He was offering - the Millennial kingdom. So, if you are seeking the millennium, He will see to your needs.
This text is for those looking for the kingdom and no one else. This is not a promise for me today. However, there is an application for me in this day. As I seek His righteousness and His future, I know that He will supply all that I need. This is a general principle throughout scripture. God always takes care of His people.
5. Realize that God’s revelation is progressive: The gospel record is information for that day and time, while the epistles were meant for a later day and time. The information given to Moses was not meant to be carried forward to the church age. An example if this is the sacrificial system. It is no longer needed because Christ completed the sacrifice for sin on the cross. The Old Testament may relate to our day. The writer of Hebrews uses many of the people of that age in Chapter Eleven to produce the great text on living by faith. This shows that the information is not specifically for us, yet we can find application to our lives in those specifics.
The idea of examples of men is also related by Paul in Philippians 3:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:9. Christ when he cleansed the temple was not telling us to cleanse the churches, we disagree with, though we can apply His action by being indignant at wrong activities.
There may be a truth for only one dispensation, or the truth may be a universal truth. John 3:3 mentions, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." This is a limited truth in that it was given in the context of the kingdom that is to come. A person cannot enter the kingdom unless he is born again. This proves that all at the beginning of the kingdom will be believers. There is also a universal truth in that if you personally want to be a part of the kingdom you must be born again.
Remember that all Scripture is beneficial. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction, thus we need to search the gospels for information that can help us know our God and live rightly before Him. The danger is in applying before studying.
Let us draw some conclusions then.
1. If it’s not for your dispensation, if it’s not for your nationality (gentile), if it’s not for your circumstance, THEN it’s not for you!
2. If the same principle is restated elsewhere in the New Testament epistles then it’s for you.
3. If it’s a valid principle universally in scripture then it’s for you.
4. If it’s a spiritual quality of personality, life, or holiness then it’s for you.
5. Primarily the synoptic gospels were written by men still looking for the kingdom to be set up shortly thus the specific information is meant for the kingdom. One should not weigh heavily on the gospels nor the book of Acts for church age promises.
It is hoped that this will be helpful in your use of the Gospel accounts of the life of our Lord and Savior in your own life.
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
"If" and assumed so is the construction here, thus Paul assumes that they have heard of the dispensation of the Grace of God and they know what he is talking about. It would be also assumed from our end that they understood more than just the words - they had probably been taught a certain amount about the dispensation and the meaning of it somewhere along the line in their spiritual walk.
Indeed, they may know more about it than we do since Paul does not give us the background that they seemingly had. That is of interest to me - just what did they know? How did it impact their lives? I would assume that anything we needed to know about it is included in the Scripture so that we can know as well.
The term "dispensation" is "oikonomia" which relates to a stewardship or the administration of the affairs of a household. The word appears seven times in the New Testament. Luke 16:2-4; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25. In the Luke text we see it as the steward of a rich man. One that oversaw the affairs of the rich man’s household. This often took in the day to day management as well as seeing to financial matters relating to the house.
We saw it related to a time when God will bring all things to conclusion in our study of chapter one verse ten and here we see it related to a period of "grace." In Colossians it relates to a time when Paul is given stewardship over the Gospel for the benefit of his readers.
The idea of dispensations came about under the teaching of John Darby and later by C. I. Scofield. Some covenant people relate it back to a mystic nun and some of her visions, but this has been an "Urban Legend" of the internet. Darby made the teaching popular and others of his time saw the validity of looking at Scripture in this manner and adopted the system.
Over the years many have started drifting away from the system, indeed, some of the major seminaries that have been bastions of Dispensationalism have nearly eliminated the teaching from their course work.
It is a system that is much maligned and totally misunderstood by most that reject it. Many on the internet have assumed what the system teaches and have made straw men to shoot down, but few really take time to study the system and understand it. Most pick up the falsehoods and perpetuate them to all who will listen.
I feel for those that spend their lives building these straw men so that they can shoot them down. They are being dishonest with themselves as well as those that might listen to them. They cannot stand the study required to understand something so just take a guess, or take something they have heard and find a way to dispose with the position that they have created in their mind and feel good about what they have done, when indeed, they have duped themselves.
What is worse is that many of these, when confronted with truth ignore what they have been shown, ignore the fact that their thinking is incorrect and they go on perpetuating their error at every opportunity. Many are the times on the internet when I have confronted people with their straw men and their invalid arguments against Dispensationalism, but they simply ignore what is put before them in favor of their own "INTELECTUAL SIDESTEPPING."
The system does not teach two ways of salvation, never has and I doubt that it ever will. All dispensationalists view the Old Testament saints coming to God through the cross and not by keeping the law.
Most dispensationalists see all of time divided into seven dispensations. They begin with innocence in the Garden, another dispensation that covers the time between the fall and human government with Noah which is the third, then Promise with Abraham, Law with Moses, grace with the coming of Christ, then they add the final of the kingdom.
There are variations on the seven and some add an eighth for the tribulation. The point is not how many, but that God operates over man in differing methods. He does not operate with those in the church age as He did with people under the law. If you think about the law and grace you will see many many distinctions. This is all that Dispensationalism says - God works with man in different ways in different ages. His governing is different and his requirements are different, but the way to salvation is always the cross no matter what dispensation you live in.
I might add that Dispensationalism is almost always linked with literal interpretation and that the other system, covenant theology, is always linked to allegorical interpretation. In fact most covenant theologians admit that if you interpret the Word literally you will become a dispensationalist. I see that as a very good thing myself.
If you do not hold to the teaching of dispensations, then you will mix all of Scripture into a big bundle of promises and requirements that relate to everyone, and have a result of confusion. This is why covenant theology sees circumcision and baptism as partners and this is why they baptize babies. The mixing of promises to Israel with the church leads to all sorts of confusion about the end times as well. If what they say is true, you can go to the Old Testament and pick out any promise you want and claim it as your own - just don’t hold your breath till God fulfills that promise.
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Paul asserts that his information was revealed directly from God. This is about as straight from the source as you can get. God revealed it directly to Paul. In fact some manuscripts translate this "by revelation was the mystery...." A few observations.
a. It is the real thing.
b. It is God’s direct wish for us.
c. It is something very important.
d. It is something to be listened to.
e. It is something to be believed.
f. It is something to be acted upon.
He reminds them that he had written of these things at a prior time as well. This may have been a personal letter or maybe a lost letter that he had sent. It might also have been in a circulatory letter to several churches. Some relate this, and they may well be correct, to the statement of the apostle in chapter one verses nine and ten. See, it is important to remember what the preacher says from week to week, he may call on you to remember something sometime.
This thought of revelation is of great importance in our day. Many are questioning the validity of the Bible. Even in formerly evangelical and now in some evangelical circles the total validity of the Word is suspect. They question if ALL the Word is without error. They suggest that only in the area of salvation is it valid. If invalid in all areas but salvation, why in the world would anyone trust it for their eternal soul?
To question part of the Word is to question all of it. If part is faulty then all is possibly faulty.
Revelation states that God gave us the Word in a manner in which we can trust it completely and unquestionably as it was given in the original manuscripts. For further study see my theology and check the index for "revelation."
Paul wants them to understand all the knowledge he has about this subject. The person that is trained in sharing the word, in sharing his knowledge of the word is of utmost importance to them. What we know, we want to share with others so that they may know.
This is the natural way of things. There are some that glory in the knowledge that they have and that you do not have. I worked with an organization that was functioning on this principle. If I know something you don’t know I have power you don’t have. The revelation of that knowledge always was made known only when it would profit the person that held that knowledge most.
What foolishness for Christians to act this way but many there are that function this way in schools, in church boards and even in families. The norm is to desire to share your knowledge with others not keep secrets and use knowledge as a tool to make gain.
Another application of this might be the frustration that knowledgeable people have in churches. They sit Sunday after Sunday desiring to share their knowledge with others in the church, but are not allowed to. Classes are often structured for the pastor to preach a second sermon for the day. Others are structured so tightly that any outside "new" thought is not allowed for it would confuse and distract the teacher.
There are many very knowledgeable people in churches that are not allowed to teach for one reason or another. I know personally of many believers that are well qualified to teach but their exclusion has caused them to stop attending services. There are other reasons why they stop but because they are refused by the church, they sit idle with all that knowledge that God has instilled for the edification of the saints.
Pastors that teach Sunday school in their own church often are control freaks and are afraid to allow anyone else to talk with their people for fear they will teach truth and find the pastor in error. Others don’t allow it so that they can be the focal point of everyone’s attention, and still others just don’t want anyone teaching anything except what they want to be taught.
Share your knowledge of God with others. If not in the church in your family, at work, at play. Even some unsaved people enjoy hearing of God and His word. They are interested - may have little knowledge and weak understanding, but then that is true of all believers before we believed.
When God shows you something neat from the Word, share it with others as soon as you can. Don’t hide what you know, share it. Don’t hide your light under the bushel, but let it shine brightly to glorify God and what He has done.
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
We have here clear indication of another doctrine called progressive revelation. Not only did God reveal information to man, but He did it along time. He gave some to Adam, He gave some to Abraham, He gave some to Moses, He gave some to the Old Testament prophets, and now He is giving more to Paul and the rest of the apostles, as well as to the New Testament people.
This progressive type revelation is important as we try to understand the Scriptures as a whole. That revelation that was given to Moses may or may not relate to us today. On the other side, what we know today, was not incumbent upon those of Moses time.
Each age is responsible for its own revelation specifically, while also responsible for that of the preceding ages which relates to all time. When the Old Testament writer mentions something of the character of God, then that is also revelation for us, however when an Old Testament prophet warns of coming judgment upon Israel it is not incumbent upon us.
You must be careful in how you apply Scripture. When study is done in the Old Testament you need to determine what is for us, and what was for that day. Many today use the Gospels for today, when some of that material was given specifically to the person that will one day live in the Kingdom/millennium. If you want some basic principles of interpretation of the Gospels there is a section at the end of this study from my theology that will give you a start. There is much more information around if you want to study further.
Some items of interest.
a. The New Testament prophets received revelation from God. This is important in that the Charismatics say that they have prophets, but they don’t believe that they are adding revelation today, only that they state things that are in keeping with Scripture. Then they aren’t prophets - the New Testament prophets received and communicated revelation and they also were for-tellers at times.
Some charismatics believe that we still have apostles, as do some non-charismatics, however the non-charismatics view the apostles as preachers today rather than apostles on the order of the New Testament ones.
b. The prophets received revelation that Paul did not, and the other apostles received revelation that Paul did not. So, how come Paul didn’t throw a hissy fit because someone else knew something that he didn’t know? Apply that one to the church today folks. We are all on the same team, but we don’t all know all that there is to know about all that is going on, nor do we need to know all that is going on.
Different people are prepared differently than you so be sure to understand it is God that does the preparing, and that it is not of your business to be similarly prepared if God doesn’t do it for you. We are prepared as God has prepared us. He gave us the education that He desired us to have. Be satisfied with how God has prepared you.
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
The knowledge that Paul had was that Gentiles were to be fellow heirs and of the same body as the Jewish believers and they were to be partakers of that part of the promise relating to Christ - the salvation. This verse does not say that we are partakers of the promise in general, only as it relates to Christ.
Now, if I understand the Jews of this time I suspect we are talking of people that would hide knowledge for their own benefit as I have indicated earlier. The Jews were a tight bunch and did not cotton to outsiders, so to speak. They were isolationist at best when it came to their God. This is one of their great sins in the Old Testament, not reaching out to the world with their God. All was in position to accept Gentile believers into their fold but they didn’t go out to do this. If someone came along wanting to follow God they would accept them in, but there was no outreach into the world.
Note might be made that we are becoming a part of the Jewish community of believers - at that time this was true, most of the first converts to Christianity were Jewish. Today we the church tend to think of ourselves as accepting a Jewish convert into our midst. That is true in that there are few Jewish converts, but we might want to remember a proper attitude - it is we that were taken into the Jewish community by the blood of Christ.
Not sure how that has application in our day, but it is the Scripture and maybe we need to consider it some in our future days.
It might indicate the need to know what the Jewish mind set is toward God. That would tend to change the way we do worship today. The Old Testament believers were not as flip and casual as we are before God.
It might indicate the need to know the Old Testament Scripture so that we know how to act before God.
Then you might combine these and understand the Old Testament from the Jewish mindset rather than from our Gentile mindset.
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
The word translated "power" is that word from which we gain dynamite. The word "gift" is always used in relationship to a gift of some sort from God. It is used of all three members of the trinity. There are other words translated gift, but this one is exclusively a gift from God.
The gift wasn’t that he was a minister, but that he was given grace and his being a minister was part of that whole package. I would guess, having said that, that this might well have been a gift of the Spirit to empower him to minister. The term "minister" is the word from which we gain deacon. It is one that ministers, that fulfills the directions of another, in this case God.
This word seems to be, in this context at least, more than just the servant in the church idea, but in the next verse it is clear that the gift was related to preaching or evangelizing. This would be in keeping with Stephen one of the first deacons being a servant, but also a preacher. (Acts 6:1-15; Acts 7:1-60; Acts 8:1-40)
I once met a pastor that was thinking of leaving his church to pioneer another work. I asked how his congregation would like that because he had been at his church for many years. His comments ran along the line of, if I dropped dead today they wouldn’t miss me as far as the ministry goes. I have trained all my deacons to preach. They fill pulpits in the area when pastors need to take a day off.
This pastor knew the importance of training leadership. I have not seen this sort of training very often and this is sad, for the church as well as the untapped reserve of lay preachers that are going untrained and unused.
One of the joys of hearing from the mission field is to hear that missionaries have trained a local person enough that they are teaching or preaching in the mission church. That is what the church is about - training the local sheep to take the church into the next generation.
There is also good application along the lines of responding to and using your gift from God. He has gifted all of us in one manner or another with a spiritual gift. It is up to us to see that we are exercising that gift. If you are in a church and unable to use your gift then I would consider finding a place where you can. I am not much for moving from church to church, but if you aren’t using your gift the church is hampered in what God wants to do.
Many pastors tend to do it all so they can be sure it is done, but they ought to learn to trust their people to use their gifts and to function within the church as they ought.
This thought of deacons preaching is of interest in the thought that pastors normally call in outsiders to fill the pulpit when they are on vacation or away from the church. Their deacons should be able to fill that role. If they can’t then there is need of training.
There is also the aspect that there are deacons that are capable but not allowed to preach in their own churches. This is wrong. I have run into some that say they love to preach but that the pastoring is not for them. This is the situation - they aren’t gifted as pastors, but are gifted to serve and preach. The "Pastor" concept is slightly incorrect in our day. The pastor is not the only one that can be in the pulpit, indeed some I have been under ought not to be in the pulpit. They are poor preachers at best and ought to concentrate on their pastoral aspects. There are also many pastors in the world today that are not teachers, and this is against the qualifications for elder - again, things are amiss.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
"Less than the least" can also refer to lower than the lowest. In other words Paul views himself as the sand under the belly of the snake as it slithers across the desert. He is so low that you can’t get any lower. Is this just false humility on Paul’s part? I doubt anything about the apostle Paul was ever false, so I assume this is how he felt about himself.
If you read in the diaries of some of the great men of God you will find that most viewed themselves as pretty worthless, as not having done all they should, somewhat poor as disciples of Christ go. I think it is a worthy contemplation of where you are in the grand scheme of things. Many of the nations big preachers appear to be pretty stuck on themselves when they ought to realize they are the messenger not the message - the gift of God to man is the gospel message not the messenger. They only bear that great gift of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many pastors I’ve met have this low view of themselves - a servant of the Living God rather than someone of special esteem but there are some that are so stuck on themselves and how great they are that they are not much good. I recently heard that one of these types was fired from his church and he was in depression for over a year due to the realization that he wasn’t the great man that he thought he was. I assume that he was shocked that anyone in the world did not have the same estimation of his greatness that he had.
I also assume that Paul may have dug back into his persecuting of the saints days to gain a real feel of who he really was in this life. A total worm that God decided to use even though he had been the great persecutor of the Gospel. Paul knew he was being used of God but he had a very healthy view of who he had been before God interrupted him on the road that day.
Gill says it well, "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints,.... This is an instance of the great humility of the apostle, and indeed the greatest saints are generally speaking, the most humble souls, as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and others; these have the meanest thoughts of themselves, and the best of others; they rejoice in the grace of God manifested to others; they are willing to receive instruction, nay admonition, from the meanest believer; they have the least opinion of their own works, and are the greatest admirers of the grace of God; and do most contentedly submit to the sovereign will of God: the reasons of their great humility are, because they have the largest discoveries of the love and grace of God and Christ, which are of a soul humbling nature; they are the most sensible of their own sinfulness, vileness, and unworthiness, which keeps them low in their own sight; they are commonly the most afflicted with Satan’s temptations, which are suffered to attend them, lest they should be exalted above measure; they are the most fruitful souls, and boughs laden with fruit hang lowest; and they are the most conformable to Christ, who is meek and lowly."
Some suggest this was a play on words in Paul’s mind since his name means small or little and most believe him to have been a small man, however I personally would doubt this is the case.
The term "is" and "given" are the same Greek word, the verb is "is given," the translators just split it up for reading sake evidently.
"Preach" relates to evangelize, or preach the Gospel. A clear statement that Paul was to be preaching to the Gentiles.
It was of interest to me, on a recent television broadcast I had the misfortune to see, that the person was trying to prove that Paul was not as ALL Protestantism teaches. The man was setting up lies about Protestants, white Protestants to be more specific. He would tell the audience that the white protestant taught a certain truth and then disprove that truth. That is one of the marks of a phony in my book; the setting up of straw men and then shooting them down. I see it all the time on internet boards.
Anyway this colored man would give a reference and another sitting beside him would read the passage while the first man would interrupt with multiplied interpretations, and commands to reread a phrase. The man "proved" what he said of Paul and thought he proved that the twelve tribes of the Old Testament were black peoples of the Americas. He further attempted, though failed to prove, that the whole of Scripture is to the Jews only and that the black people are the Jews. Salvation was never given to the Gentiles. He stated quite clearly numerous times that salvation was for the blacks only. Guess he didn’t read this passage.
"Unsearchable" can relate to something that is past and you can’t find anything else about it. When working on my family tree, I found many dead ends. It wasn’t that these people were out of their tree, but they were the last to produce any further information. Those that preceded them are gone as well as all record of them. The past is not able to be found out. The information is not there, so there is no way to dig it up - it is gone, and no one can search it for further information.
How does this relate to our text? The riches of Christ are unsearchable. I would suggest that His riches have been spread throughout time and many of those riches have been lost, yet there is a whole passel of riches that we can still discover and enjoy. It may also relate to the fact that Christ is gone from the earth and His abundance is no longer here to view and enjoy and study. Paul is to be preaching these riches - showing the Gentiles of what Christ was and is. This is our ministry as well to all that will listen. He is God, He loved us, He died for us, and He was raised for us - what a message we have to give.
There is a more precise meaning to the word in my mind. Unsearchable in relation to Christ seems to more specifically apply to the vastness of His riches - they are so vast and immense that we can never grasp the vastness, nor understand the extent of His riches. Paul was to go into the world preaching the vastness and richness of what Christ had done for mankind. Not sure how he would have worded that experience on a resume today, but he was out doing the best he could to do the job set before him.
We should be doing the very same thing. We have a glimpse of the richness of what Christ has done on the cross and we should be sharing it with all that will listen.
"Riches" has the idea of over abundance, or more than an abundance. In the Old Testament the people of Israel were asked to give of their means over and above the tithes that were required. This giving was to be a love offering to God to build the tabernacle and associated items. The Word records that they gave so much that the leaders had to tell them to stop giving. They already had an over abundance of materials to build that which God had commanded. (In Exodus 25:1 ff and Exodus 35:5 ff we see the call for people to bring of their goods for the making of the tabernacle, and in Exodus 36:5-7 "And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make. 6 And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. 7 For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.")
What a problem to have. Folks, stop giving we have enough to do the project. Only once in my life have I seen this happen. A man had gone to a distant land to plant a church. He raised all the support needed. He went to the field, planted the church and the church grew. When the church could support itself and the pastor’s needs the pastor wrote to all of his supporters and said we have accomplished what we set out to do. The church can now support itself, so it is time for you to stop giving to this work.
May other ministries try this principle instead of just finding bigger and better ways of spending the money people give.
And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
This seems to be a recap of all that has gone on before - the plan of God, the creation, the story of redemption, this is the mystery that had formerly been hidden from the Gentiles view. Paul was to make man see what God had been doing through the ages for them, as individuals.
"To make" is the term "photizo" which relates to illuminate or shine light upon. Our house is on a fairly dark street. There is a street light in front, but it does not help in our yard. I started turning on the porch light, I then added a light to the garage, then another light on the garage, and it was still not enough so I added two more to the house on two of the darker sides. Finally I felt our yard was illuminated - I could see what was going on. Paul was to illuminate man about what God was doing on their behalf.
You have read of the perfect tense, and it has been mentioned that it is something that occurs, but has continuing action until a point of completion. In this verse we have the perfect tense used with the fullness of its meaning. "Hath been hid" is a perfect tense. This information was hidden in the past and continued to be hidden until Paul’s day when the completion of the hiding took place - revelation of that which was hidden.
"Fellowship of the mystery" is of interest. The term "fellowship" is "koinonia" which relates to fellowship. It is that relationship between believers as well as that relationship between a person and God. What is meant by the "fellowship of the mystery?" Does it relate to the thought that all mankind has a relationship with this mystery? Yes, this is true.
It is of interest that some state that the older manuscripts show the term normally translated dispensation rather than the term normally translated fellowship. The two are normally viewed as quite different, the one relating to a governing relationship between God and man, and the other being a personal relationship between God and man or between believers.
It may show that older theologians viewed our fellowship with God as an age or economy - which it really is related - our time with God on this earth, our fellowship with Him is certainly limited to a specific time and our relationship to Him is marked by certain governing principles.
It may be that fellowship is the outworking of that dispensation or governing relationship that we are in.
I am not suggesting we add four hundred and fifty million dispensations the seven we have, but in essence that is what we have with God - a dispensation of our own - a set of responsibilities of our own before Him, and He in turn responds to us as is befitting our own personal dispensation.
Paul is to make ALL men to see they have a relationship to this mystery of God - the plan, the election, the creation, the cross and all that is associated with God’s work with mankind - Paul is to tell ALL that they have a relationship to this plan.
Now, think about that for a moment. We tend to witness so that we can win souls, but ought we not be witnessing to all to let them know that they are related to the plan of God. Even if they reject Christ, it is obvious here that they have a relationship to the decrees of God. If there is a relationship, then there is also responsibility. If responsible then the results are on their shoulders.
If they reject their responsibility to the relationship, they suffer the result - they refused their rescue - eternity without that relationship that they refused. Just another way to say they are going to spend eternity in the lake of fire because they did not want to respond to God.
There is an obvious teaching here. "All" is the term that Paul chose to use. He could have said the elect, he could have said the predestined, but he did not. He used "ALL" indicating what? Do you suppose he meant ALL mankind is to be told of this fellowship? I should think so.
Yes, this is the term that indicates all but not every one, however we do not know which will or will not respond to the gospel, but we should attempt to tell ALL of their relationship/dispensation with God.
"In God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:" What an explicit statement of the Lord Jesus being the creator. God planned it, Christ produced it and the Spirit moved on the waters. Some suggest that God planned it, Christ spoke it, and the Spirit produced it. I would suggest that God planned it, Christ spoke the materials and form into existence, and the Spirit gave it life. Genesis 1:1-2 speaks of the Spirit moving on the face of the waters. Later we see that the whole of creation was water in the beginning, and later land appeared. This would indicate that the Spirit was moving or calming the waters. One of the meanings of the word used is to soften or to relax. The Spirit was calming or relaxing the creation, thus not really involved in the actual creation of matter or forming of form. He was however just as involved as the other members of the trinity.
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
"Principalities" has to do with the corner, or the beginning of things, or one that starts a series of things. In a way Christ is the principality of the resurrections, He was the first to be resurrected. It could relate to the corner of a building that starts the rest of the wall. It can also relate to the head of a group as a magistrate, a president etc.
"Power" relates to the power over. The principality might be the dictator, while the power would be his rule and power over the people.
"Might be known" relates more to the making known than the being known. When I explain a text, I am declaring its meaning, or making it known, while you knowing the information is being known.
Here we see the church making known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers. The Net Bible translates it as follows, "The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms."
"Manifold" means of great variation as in a variation of colors. The rainbow would be manifold, variegated yarn would be manifold. The wisdom of God is variegated, there are many facets to it. I have done a large study on "wisdom" and I did not notice this verse. The wisdom of the Scriptures is varied as is the wisdom of man thus it isn’t surprising that the Lord’s wisdom would be the same.
The question comes to mind, how does the church declare the wisdom of God to the principalities and powers? What do we do, or how do we act to declare God’s wisdom?
First of all we must know of God’s wisdom. We can’t declare what we don’t know. I could teach basic math, but I could never teach Algebra or Calculus because I know nothing of those systems. Knowing God’s wisdom is of necessity to be a part of this verse.
Secondly, we note that it is the church that does the declaring, not the individual, which is a real relief - it is a corporate job rather than an individual’s responsibility. However, it most certainly is a corporate responsibility.
Actually, the responsibility is more in God’s ball park rather than the church itself. The context sets the stage, and all that is before results here in the declaration of God’s wisdom to the principalities and powers.
The very fact of the church’s existence is that declaration. As the church continues to exist, it continues to declare God’s wisdom. Or ought to be declaring His wisdom anyway. Some times I wonder if the church is declaring anything but the picture of the world, but as the church walks with God it will automatically be the declaration mentioned by Paul in this verse.
One must wonder how we are doing as a corporate body of believers. Are we declaring God adequately to our nation’s leaders? Are we as vocal as we ought to be? Are we making it known that what they are doing at times is just plain wrong? When you see a leader taking a wrong stand let him know what is right and suggest he reconsider.
I must add that I’m not sure how much good one voice is, but many voices can be an earth shaker to a man that wants to be reelected. Why do you think that presidents watch the polls. They may say that they don’t care about them, but polls seem to be shaping our nation’s direction at times.
This declaration of God’s wisdom is the result of all that He decreed, all of His planning and all of His actions have resulted in a people for His Son. The church is the culmination of that plan for this age. The church is the result of all actions taken by God to this point in time. What He was doing with Adam looked forward to the cross, what He did with Noah looked forward to the cross, what He did with Abraham looked forward to the cross, and the cross resulted in the church, God’s people, a peculiar people separated unto Him.
There is, in my mind, a real possibility that this variation of His wisdom may well be the dispensations. We noted that the Church is to declare this wisdom, and the church is the culmination of the salvation portion of His program. This information was not revealed until the churches beginning. This, however, is not the culmination of all that God has planned for mankind, only this portion, or this age or this dispensation.
As the principalities and powers observed God dealing with man, they saw His action with Adam, they saw His action with Noah, and they saw His action with Abraham. They saw just how God was dealing with different peoples in different times, and now Paul states that they have seen how God is dealing with the church, His people. Thank God that His wisdom had different facets, we would be in most miserable shape had He not acted in different ways from His relationship with Adam.
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Here we see that which we mentioned in the previous verse, the decrees, the eternal purpose of God, that which He set in motion before the creation in eternity past.
"Purpose" is the Greek word "prothesis." It means something that supports, or sets forth something. It would be as a table holding something. In our own language it is something that supports something else.
Everything He purposed, was tied up in Christ Jesus our Lord - Christ the Messiah, Jesus the perfect man, and Lord the object of our service.
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
The Net Bible adds "to god" after confidence for clarity. I’m not sure it is needed in that the text seems to clearly indicate this on its own. At any rate, we have access to God whenever we are on praying ground with Him.
"By faith of Him" is often seen as Christ’s faith, but the Net Bible notes suggest that it might also mean that it is through Christ’s faithfulness. This is the way I took the King James, because our access is not due to the faith that Christ has in something, it is through His work on the cross that we have access. It really must relate to His faithfulness to God’s plan and desire for Christ and the work of the cross.
What a verse of promise, we have full access WITH CONFIDENCE to God Himself, at any time of day, under any situation, we can go to Him with our burdens and needs.
The question arises, which member of the Trinity do we have access to? Actually all three in reality, but in this context I would think the text would indicate God the Father. We may pray to any of the Trinity, but Christ told us to direct our prayers to the Father, thus this should be the pattern.
Not only do we have access and that access with confidence, but we have boldness in the Father with our access. We can be bold in our approach to His throne in prayer - assuming we are on praying ground.
Do you have a need? Go to Him with boldness and confidence and make your request known. Know that He will answer your prayer, one of three ways. Yes, No, Not now. This is where the confidence comes in - you know He will answer one way or another, and you know that He knows what is best for you, so that answer is exactly what He wants and exactly what you need for the best gain of your life. So, if it is no or not now, then don’t worry, fret and be disappointed, go boldly ahead with what He has planned for you.
As a young believer this was one of the truths that sank deep within me for some reason. Long before I was walking with God, and long before I knew anything about God I always had a boldness and confidence in prayer. I don’t know why, it was just a "known" in my life that if I needed something that I should ask and that He would care for the need.
Shortly after getting out of the service I was unemployed, near broke and no good prospects on the horizon. I had prayed about the situations, and I had a real confidence that His care would be upon me, that I didn’t need to worry about all the details. And, He took care of me - a job came along quite quickly and it was a good paying job beside.
My wife and I have always had a strong confidence in God taking care of us. When you don’t have anything, you have no where else to turn and it is only God that can deal with the situation. Many are the times when we were in hopeless situations and He would come through with glowing colors. Not always on the timetable that we had in mind, but always provision was made.
Now, no matter how confident you are, be sure to go boldly to Him in prayer concerning the issues. Some wander why there is no answer, and they haven’t asked yet. God answers prayer, not silence.
Section Six: 3:13-21
Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
"Desire" is a word that has many shades of meaning. There is the desire to see someone, which can be mild to strong desire. The principals desire to see a student in need of discipline lacks somewhat when compared to the desire of a boy to see the girl he is engaged to.
The desire here seems to be a strong desire as in crave, beg or require. This is something that is very important to the apostle. This desire is also something that is partially from without. He is moved with this desire due to some outside force, namely the Spirit of God.
"Faint" has the thought of weary or tired out, someone that has really had it with something. When we were on deputation, I made a number of trips to the Midwest from the west coast. We did not have motel money so I always drove straight through both ways. When I arrived at my destination, I was weary to the point of exhaustion. I would faint at the thought of further driving. One commentary mentions the word "despirited" as an option for "faint" which really gives the thought of the word.
Paul does not want them to be deterred in any way by his tribulations. He wanted none of that.
Instead of fainting or being discouraged by his tribulation on their part, they are to glory in it. "Glory" is the word normally translated glory, and is the Greek word "doxa" from which we gain doxology. The Ephesians were to glory in the tribulation of Paul. Now, that is a statement that is going to need some explaining. Why should they glory or be proud of his tribulation - the tribulation that was caused because of them?
1. The text states more specifically that the tribulation is their glory. The tribulation is somehow a glory to them, a good mark for them in some manner.
2. Some suggest that God loved them so much that he gave His Son for them as well as allowed Paul to suffer on their behalf. This may be the thought of it, but if so I think to add the Son into it is to read a lot more into the verse than is there.
3. It would seem that Paul’s tribulation is a glory to them in that Paul was willing to give his all for the propagation of the Gospel, which is a glory to all gentile believers. He was willing to do all for them, thus their worth in Paul’s mind must have been great.
Now, I am going to meddle here and I am warning pastors right now. I have met many (pastors) on internet forums that indicate that their parishioners are rather on the dumb side, often obnoxious, and seldom what the pastor wants of people he has to work with. I have seen a real "US" versus "THEM" mentality between pastors and their congregations.
I see pastors that think they are above apologizing to congregants when they are wrong. I have seen men that feel the people should overlook his flaws while he makes mountains of theirs.
Here, Paul says he has suffered imprisonment for their sakes. Pastors, please catch that vision - honor your people as co-heirs with you in Christ, for that is indeed what they are.
Now, go back and read the last three paragraphs and substitute your name where I mentioned pastor and substitute pastor where I indicated the congregation. We are all equal in the church, we are all co-heirs with Christ and we ought to value one another.
1. I would like to look at two things here.
a. Verses fourteen and fifteen speak of our relationship to the Father. I would suggest for your thinking and contemplation the fact that the single female parent family that is in our society, lacking a father image, is not. God the Father is our father. Any single female parent needs to understand this and apply it to their lives and their children’s lives. Yes, a man in the house is great and needed but the Father can supply many of those things that the child will need. He is their support, He is their strength, and He is their comfort and all those fatherly items.
What is needed is for the child to be trained properly to understand God’s purpose in their lives. This passage totally speaks to this aspect of God having a plan and Him supplying that which is lacking in each of us to accomplish that plan - that goes for kids as well as seniors and all between.
b. The passage mentions, "the whole family in heaven and earth" and some relate this to not only humans, but also to the angelic host. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown mention that the angels are sons by creation and we by adoption. Whether the angels are included or not I am not entirely convinced. I don’t know that it makes a lot of doctrinal difference either way, it is impressive enough to me that I am a brother same as Paul, same as Abraham, and the same as Moses. If you want to include Michael and the other archangels, I’m even more impressed that such as I can be in the same family as such as we have named.
2. It is of note that this whole section is full of doctrine and it leads to Paul’s grand doxology in the final verses of the section. When is the last time doctrine moved you to praise and worship? Many pastors criticize doctrine as being to "super saintly" and a waste of time, but Paul found it vital and it brought him to great praise for the God that set all these doctrines into existence.
When you study doctrine, always take time to contemplate God and how it relates to Him and His glory. Doctrine is not and should not be treated like a four-letter word. It is the meat that the believer ought to be feeding on daily.
It is no wander the church is full of screaming babies and problems, all they are getting is milk - they need meat so they can grow and be nourished into adulthood.
3. We mentioned that bowing if not prostrating one’s self in prayer was preferable to other positions. This is due to the concentration of the mind on what we are doing. When sitting or standing our minds tend to wander off into oblivion, while kneeling or laying face down tends to remind us of what we are supposed to be doing.
Many there are that have joked about the fact that when fishing and hunting, they can worship God just as easily as when in church, but I have never seen a fisherman fish or hunter hunt kneeling or prone with his face to the ground.
HE IS OUR LIFE, NOT HIS CREATION! Is this not what Romans one is about - worshiping the creation rather than the creator? (Romans 1:19-25)
Of course we can praise God without being in a building with a cross on top, but we seldom do if we are all really honest. Making a conscious effort to be with Him is the key.
4. In verses sixteen through nineteen we see, "16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."
This seems to describe super saint in our day and age, that one that walks with God daily, moment by moment and the one that is always in the Lord’s control to do what is right at every turn. It describes the one that is able to answer every question with Scripture and defend against every detractor with the Word.
However - note that he is not speaking to a few, or an individual, but he is speaking to every believer at the church at Ephesus. Today in our churches, we seem to have a few super saints, that are really those average saints that Paul is speaking about, and then we have a lot of superficial saints that are far from living up to this Scriptural standard. This is wrong. We all should be as those Paul is speaking of - filled with the love of Christ, empowered with strength for the spiritual battles before us.
"Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" - Does that really sound like the run of the mill Christian today that has every self help book ever published, the run of the mill Christian today that watches the Dr. Phil Show in the hope of finding strength to go on, or the run of the mill Christian today that attempts to live by the quack of the day advice on the television - those that can’t get their life together enough to function in life.
God stands ready to strengthen each and every one to the task at hand if we will only walk with Him and allow Him to do the work He wants to do within us and around us. God desires a powerful church not a church that is poorly balanced on the brink of emotional collapse.
In nineteen eighties I was told by a friend that was part of the leadership in a fairly large church in one of our large cities that his church has a hard time keeping enough families emotionally healthy enough to minister to the unhealthy. He was speaking in the context of the many divorces, drug and drinking problems, and the child rearing problems. The churches entire emotional strength was being drained by those Christians that were unable to operate in the strength of the Lord.
It is wonderful that the church had healthy members to minister, but oh how sad that so few were there that could have the freedom to do the work of the Lord outside the church due to their total immersion in ministering in the church to faltering believers.
Where is the strength in the church today? Where is the power in the church today? These passages of Paul’s are for us today as well as to the Ephesians - we need to be teaching these principles to our believers and getting them on track for use by God in His work inside and outside the church.
5. Verse nineteen states, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." Filled with the "fullness of God." Does that sound like the average believer today? Does the temper ridden believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the cheating believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the lying believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the swearing believer show forth the fullness of God?
I might ask whether the famous believer that commits adultery shows forth the fullness of God. Does the famous believer that swears on the sports field show forth the fullness of God? Does the famous believer that takes acting roles of immorality show forth the fullness of God? Does the famous believer that is in the political arena that uses the tactics of the world show forth the fullness of God?
One further question. Are you showing forth the fullness of God in your life?
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Ouch, if you are old and have damaged knees you know what the old apostle might have gone through. I’d guess with all the walking, all the cold damp nights and all the heavy work over the years that his knees are in about as bad a shape as mine and I hurt when I bow, yet Paul was still getting on his knees before the Lord.
It was my privilege to attend a Bible study prayer time with three other men. Three of us were in our sixties and on bended knees is how we prayed. I must admit there was a lot of shuffling during prayer to find a more comfortable spot, but I’m sure God could hear over the background noise. Not that we were super spiritual, just that four men on their knees before their God was quite a unifying factor amongst us.
It has surprised me that more prayer meetings aren’t conducted on the knee. In all my years of church life, I have only been part of two churches where the men knelt for prayer times. If you study the term worship in the Bible, you will find that many of the references include the thought of being on one’s face before God. It is placing ourselves in a position of waiting upon Him for His will, not our own.
Now, notice the phrase "Lord Jesus Christ" and make a mental note to yourself to notice the words that are used with the term Jesus. You will find the majority of the time, outside of the time He spent on earth living as a man, that the name Jesus is also accompanied by either or both of the terms Lord and Christ. I have to wonder when people constantly use the term Jesus if they really understand that that is His earthly name, but his rightful office and position is Christ and Lord.
It seems to constantly use the name Jesus is to dwell upon His earthly ministry rather than all that He really is as Lord and Christ.
Barnes suggests the following texts for further information on prayer. "2 Chronicles 6:13 Daniel 6:10; Lu 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36;Acts 21:5"
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Which member of the trinity are we named after? It could be the whole human family, and we are called God’s creation, or it could be that the family relates to the believers and we are named after the Son - CHRISTian. The verse limits the family to a group in heaven and earth, thus must relate to believers.
It may be that this should be more specific. Since Paul’s comments prior to this verse are related to the church very specifically. If this relates to the church, and I believe that it does, then those that reject the thought of a universal church are proven incorrect with this verse. He names a group that is in heaven as well as here on earth, thus all believers, living and dead, thus a universal church would be the result.
I have no idea why these people reject the thought of a universal church for it makes no difference to their doctrine of the local church, unless they believe something more than what I have been able to discover about their belief.
We might apply this to the fact that we are, as Paul has taught, us co-heirs and equal to all others in the church - we are equal to Calvin, we are equal with Arminius, and we are equal to Augustine, we are equal to every other great saint that has gone on before. It does not mean we have accomplished what these men and women have accomplished, but it means we are equal heirs in the eternal state - we are all His children.
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
Do we have two prayers, one relating to riches and one relating to power. Now, watch the charismatic use this verse. I’d bet it is one of the arsenal of the rich and powerful group that believes all should be rich in the church - not that the leaders don’t get rich, but seldom does the congregation.
No, I believe there is one prayer here, that we will have power to live a proper life, and that life being, not one of riches, but one that is described in the following context.
Paul asks that out of His great riches, he might empower us to live a proper life. Bummer, no money, no cars, no jewels - oh well, might as well go eat worms as the children’s song goes - the song we sing when we don’t get our OWN way.
Now, put that on your prayer list for those you pray for and don’t spend so much time on the material stuff that we often pray for.
There is an assumption that God has enough of this stuff to go around, and he also assumes that He is desirous of giving this stuff to believers. He further knows that it is the ministry of the Spirit that will do the giving.
Some things to note. First, this passage shows the subservient nature of the Spirit to the Father. The Father is being asked to do something, but it is the Spirit that will do the outworking, or inner working in this case :-)
All this is related to the Father’s glory and its richness. His desire for all believers is for us to be empowered to live a godly life, and Paul is just asking that He assure this in the lives of the Ephesian believers.
Note, that the inner man is where the Spirit is to do the work, and it is the inner man that is to be strengthened - to live a proper life. I won’t push the verse to say that the inner man is where the Spirit resides, but that is probably the case. The preposition used here is rather general and could mean this or it could only mean that the inner man is where the work is to be done.
At any rate the Spirit has access to our inner most central core. In medicine there is what is called the "core temperature" that temperature that is measured at the inner part of our body. The spirit of man is the inner most part of our being and glory to God, that is where God the Spirit works - it ought to show forth to the outside don’t you think? Thus if the Spirit is really working, outward change would seem to be the result in the believer.
"Might" is that word "dunamis" which relates to explosive power - something to be reckoned with might be the thought. Power to live the proper spiritual life. Paul prayed for it assuming that God would do it according to His riches. It seems to me that the proper Christian life would be rather an automatic thing if we have all this power to live it within our inner most being.
I guess those believers that don’t live a proper life have their will surrounding their inner man so as to control it completely. Seems like a rather plain picture of what really seems to happen in the loose living believer.
Inner man is of interest to us for a moment. "Man" is that word that simply relates to our humanness, the term "inner" is the Greek word "eso" which means inner or interior inner man. It is used of going into a room, it is used of Peter going into the palace after Christ was arrested, and Paul uses the term of the inward man in Romans. Simply it means that inward part of man that relates to spiritual things - the spirit if you will. If the Spirit does this work in the spirit, how can we possibly thwart that work - only by our will to act differently on the outside.
A conscious effort to act against what we know God wants us to do - scary thing, yet so many believers live their life like this.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
"Rooted" and "grounded" are perfect passive, thus telling us that we ARE rooted and grounded in love, but the power of God for the action is coming from without. On top of that we are rooted and grounded in a continuing manner until a final completion in the future - namely when we are glorified.
Now, we ARE rooted and grounded, thus we will always know all about love, and this is the self sacrificing love of the brethren. This is a fact of Scripture, however I know some are saying, but what about so and so, she is the most unloving person I have ever met? To this I would suggest that someone is not choosing to allow the Spirit to reign over their life so that this love can show through.
The key - if we walk with God this love will naturally flow forth - fact - it is up to us whether we are loving to the outside world or not. The possibility and ability are present in every believer. That is if you have allowed the first part of the verse - allowing Christ to dwell in your heart by faith. I am assuming this is salvation, since it is dependant on faith. The dwelling is an aorist tense thus a one time incident and would be indicative of salvation.
"Dwell" is not only just a living in, or a dweller, but it also can carry the thought of "pervade" or inhabit every part or area of the heart. Not just a passer through, but Christ is to be one that lives permanently in every part of your being.
In this course thus far, it is quite evident that the casual on again and off again Christian living is not the norm, nor the desired by God. In almost all we have seen we have noticed that these changes that come from salvation are far reaching, permanent and complete. I trust we are all acting in a manner consistent with that description.
With this strong emphasis on how we ought to appear on the outside, is why many wonder if the average loose living person in the pew is even saved. We certainly don’t see this sort of Christian living in many churches. What we see are pew sitters that resemble the world rather than Christ. If we are really Christians, then one would expect a more Christ like life.
This is the second in a series of four desires of Paul for the believers.
Just read through Paul’s words again. 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Imagine yourself sitting in the church of Ephesus and hearing this letter read. How would those few lines strike you as you contemplated them? This is the apostle Paul praying these things for me - it is his desire for me to be and know all of these things.
Excited - honored - impressed - humbled, are some of the words that come to my mind - wow - Paul wants all this for me and he barely knows me. Then to realize that these things are very real possibilities for the believer. If you didn’t know these things, imagine the joy and excitement this would have generated in those people’s lives.
May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
"May be able" is not just able, but fully able or imminently able to comprehend. The easy ability to comprehend. It might relate to the weight lifter coming along in the grocery store and his ability to pick up a ten-pound bag of sugar for an old lady that is struggling with it.
Paul wants them to easily comprehend this information, not to have to struggle with it, not to have to work at it and not to have to figure things out. They are to easily understand the love of Christ, indeed hasn’t Paul set forth the ground work for their easily understanding it in the previous passages?
What is the "breadth, and length, and depth, and height;" rather well covers the "entirety" of the subject. Paul desires they easily understand the hugeness, the entirety, and the completeness of the subject. He doesn’t want them to struggle to understand any portion, not even a small portion of the subject. The term breadth has with it the suggestion of great breadth.
Now, anyone that knows me knows that I am a consummate organizer. You probably also know I love to reorganize our home for the maximum use and convenience. If you were to ever get in on the beginning of one of these sessions you would probably see me sitting and looking at the furniture in a room and thinking. You might see me get up and measure an empty spot. You might see me get up and measure a piece of furniture or maybe even measure every piece in the room. You would see me sit down again and maybe even take a nap.
The point being, I want to comprehend the entire situation before I begin my planning. I want to know where I am headed before I begin. You would also know because of the smallness and the fullness of our house that within all this planning there is a planning of how to shuffle the furniture and in what order so as to move each piece a minimum amount of times and distance.
The point, I struggle at length to come to a decision and to a plan of action. Paul doesn’t want them to have to go through this entire struggle, he wants them to EASILY comprehend the entireness of the subject.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read this passage I notice, due to my organizational skills, that there is an added dimension that is not needed in moving furniture. You need to know the height, depth and width of a subject but what does the breadth have to do with anything? Is it the overall enormity of the subject?
Webster suggests that it is the width of a subject, or how wide a table is from side to side while one is looking at it. "breadth, and length, and depth, and height;" In this context the breadth cannot be the width if the other three terms are to be used. Length would be the longest measure, depth would be the narrower measure and the height would be the top to bottom measure. The depth and height must be two different things in this usage even though depth might be construed to be the top to bottom measurement.
In this construction/usage I would assume that breadth would be the overall extent rather than a measure. It would relate to my moving furniture if I said "This tables HUGENESS is really a problem because the table is so long, so wide, and so tall. It won’t fit anywhere.
Indeed, it seems to be used this way in Revelation 20:9 "And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." But to be forthright it is also used of width in Revelation 21:16 "And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." It seems to be a general term that is defined by its context since these are the only three usages of the word in the Bible.
As to the subject of all these measurements there are some that suggest it is the cross of Christ, others the New Jerusalem, others the power and/or wisdom of God, others the completeness of salvation, while others suggest we look in the immediate context and find the object is the love of Christ. This seems the more sensible at this point to me.
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
By knowing Christ’s love, we can be filled with the fulness of God. We can know all that God wants us to know of His presence. Just by knowing Christ’s love for us.
I’m not sure we can completely know that love, for we seldom move toward knowing His love at all. We often view Christianity as a gimmy religion rather than a personal relationship with Christ. We get in for the correct reasons, faith in Christ, but we so often move right into what God can do for us mindsets. We pray in line for our own wants, we work toward our own goals and we seldom check with God as to what He would have us do.
We need to know how much Christ loved us - the cross that He suffered, the death He suffered, and the isolation He suffered. He did it for each of us as individuals. He loved us so much that He did all this for us.
"Which passeth knowledge" shows that we can never know that love completely, but we can know it enough to change our lives, to fill us with the fullness of God.
Just what is the "fullness of God?" We are to be filled with it, but what is it?
The term "fullness" is a different form of the word translated filled. "Filled" relates to full to the top so that nothing is lacking. God is also full to the top, nothing lacking. The fullness of God seems to be substantive because we are to be filled with it. We are left to assume that the "fullness of God" is the totality of who He is. Nothing less, and nothing more, we are to be filled with who He is, his total being, His presence, and His being. Contemplate that sometime.
We know we are indwelled by the Spirit, and by Christ, and here we seem to have clear indication that we are indwelled by the Father as well. We have within us the Godhead, the trinity, the entirety of the Godhead that set these decrees, the God that predestined us, the God that brought us to Himself. He is resident and we live as we live in our every day lives? Shame on us.
I suspect that as we understand the love of Christ, we will come to know the fullness of Him that is within. We are, at the point of salvation, indwelled by the Godhead, but we do not realize all that is within. As we learn of Christ’s love, we will come to understand more completely that God that dwells within.
The question naturally comes, just how can we know the love of Christ? Obviously we need to get to know Christ and Who He is. When you meet the girl that you ultimately marry, you do not know her, you do not love her, you do not understand her, and you do not know the totality of who she is. As you get to know her, you gain insight into who she is, you gain knowledge of her feelings for you, and ultimately as love develops, you both begin to understand the whole of what is going on. As you marry and continue on through life, you continue to understand the completeness of the relationship. I think this is the way believers develop in their knowledge of Christ’s love and from there the Godhead that indwells them.
Different man/woman relationships develop at different rates, and so does the relationship between the believer and God. Some get to know Christ early in their walk, while others never really get to know Him due to their lack of interest and walk. This is why Paul asks this for the Ephesian believers.
As church leaders we should attempt to help people develop this knowledge of Christ’s love.
Still, this does not answer how we can know that love. Let’s list some items of interest.
1. Prayer: As we pray and begin to understand that communication with God we will naturally see the love of Christ in the answered prayer, in the fellowship, and in the comfort we feel.
As a young believer I trusted the Lord to care for some financial needs as well as physical needs. I just knew in my mind He would take care of me and He did. The over riding thought was that He must really love me to do this for me even though I don’t know what I can do for Him. I was untaught in the spiritual life, but I knew that there was a reciprocity that should exist in the relationship.
2. Reading the Word: As we read the Word we will learn of Christ, we will learn of His actions toward people and we will learn of the work of the cross. We will begin to see all that He did for people, and for us, and we will begin to understand that He loves people, including us.
3. Study of Christ: As we get deeper into the Word we will understand the ramifications of all that He did in His earthly life as well as in His death. We will learn of His activities in the Old Testament and His actions on the part of the Jews, which will illustrate His love for them as well.
As we begin to understand just who He really is - that He is God, that He is equal to and united with God - we can understand further the Love that He must have had to come down to earth as a human being.
As we know Him we will understand and know His love - not an option, but something we should certainly be doing, and certainly be encouraging others to do.
4. Good works will ultimately help us understand who He really is as well. As we allow Him to work through us in the lives of others we will witness the love He has for them shown through us and see that love develop in their lives.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
"Power that worketh in us" must relate to either God the indweller, or possibly to our own faith. This is a good point to contemplate.
He is able to do exceeding abundant things, over and above any of our prayers or even our needs that we don’t know about. He can do things we can’t even think of - this is impressive, we have a God that is above our own thoughts. How does that relate to those idols that WE create, how does that relate to those belief systems that WE create? He is above all that we can think and yet, bend to our need and request.
There is the reverse thought of this passage as well. He is able, but He may not do exceedingly abundant things. This is why one might surmise the power within is faith rather than the Spirit. His actions toward us and on our behalf are always dependent on our current walk with Him.
Further, the term "worketh" is a middle voice indicating the subject is involved in the action. This seems to mean that the action of the "power" is involved rather than the person. On the surface it would seem that power would better relate to the Spirit, rather than to faith. He is powerful, and in the context it seems that God is the focus of the work, while we are the recipient or beneficiary.
Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
"Glory in the church" not in the world. The world owes God nothing in the way of glory, for they understand Him not. Any glory that is going to come to God is going to come from the church or Himself via Christ and His work. This is to be the plan of action throughout the ages.
The proof of my comment about the world can be seen on practically any television broadcast. He is not upheld as God, He is not upheld as a supreme being, nor is he indeed upheld at all in most shows. If He is mentioned it is in a joking or derogatory manner at best.
Someone did a survey of the media’s presentation of things religious and in the vast majority of cases the portrayal was negative. God’s people are portrayed in a negative light as well. They are the perverts, they are the whackos, and they are the deranged. No, don’t look for the world to glorify God in any way. If they do see Him in a positive light it is often for a profit in the end.
Next, we need to consider how He is glorified in the church. Or is He in our current day? Most would say that He is and I would probably agree, but I question how much glory He is finding there in recent days. The glory seems to be shared by the flashy dress, the technologically correct presentation, the accomplished musicians/instruments, and the flash of the current "worship" climate that is specifically designed to appeal to the flesh of the lost.
How can it relate to the glorification of God when we appeal to the flesh of lost man? How can satisfying the fleshly desires of Christians even glorify God. Many worship services are totally designed to reach the human side of man rather than to stir the spiritual side to consider God and His desires.