Friday, August 13, 2010

EPHESIANS: His Purpose; Our Passion!

Now we continue with the blessing of looking into God's Holy Word, and mining (in part) its depths to discover the treasure trove of this Divine Love Letter, written especially for US, accepted into the beloved!

Since we ended half way through chapter 3, we need to back up just a bit to recap the context. We finished up to and included vs. 10 so we can begin here.

EPH 3:10
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

Paul was addressing the "manifold wisdom of God" and how by such wisdom we have entered into "the fellowship of the mystery" (vs.9), that is, the mystery of Christ, and all of the spiritual dynamics that this encompasses. There can be no such "fellowship" apart from the blood atonement of Jesus Christ, Who was the true Veil rent, so that we may enter into the Holy of Holies, and there have fellowship with God as our heavenly Abba!

From vs. 10, we proceed onto vs. 11 (is that a gasp of shock I hear, due no doubt from the profound nature of my statement?) which declares the "eternal purpose . . . in Christ Jesus our Lord

EPH 3:11
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Let's stop right there for a moment, before we proceed to complete this chapter. Think about what this verse states . . . "the ETERNAL PURPOSE, which GOD our Father, purposed in Christ Jesus our LORD"! - - wow!

Consider that in the sublimely lofty, hallowed, limitless MIND of God, a GREAT PURPOSE, an ETERNAL PURPOSE that involves His own Beloved Son, the LORD Jesus Christ resides (not a purpose conceived because GOD is eternal, and His Mind doesn't proceed from one thought to the next chronologically bound within the limits of time - thoughts, ideas, plans or purposes do not 'occur' to God the Eternal One).

This is an ETERNAL PURPOSE, that is one that existed for all eternity and will ever exist. What else can you say THAT about, especially in relation to this Earth, the physical universe, our entire temporal world that exists as a space/time continuum?

The sun won't last forever, it will gradually burn out as stars routinely do across our galaxy. Once it goes, the moon and our planet and the planets of our solar system will likewise degrade in their orbits, albeit, incrementally. One big blaze of nova-sized light and heat and everything will be reduced to cinders or gigantic glacial chunks floating in space . . .

Yet even before any of this were to happen, the Word tells us that God Himself will 'wrap' this decaying Universe up and dispose of it, in favor of a new world (see ISAIAH Ch. 51:6; 65:17; 66:22 and REVELATION 20:11).
Still, civilizations, our own contemporary one included, come and go, to be replaced by others; how long will this go on as our ability to annihilate life as greater scientifically intellectual and militarily powerful sophistication increases?

Then there are those who tout 'purpose' and tag God's Holy Name to it as if to gain Divine endorsement on these schemes which these P.E.A.C.E. plans and 'purpose driven' missions proliferate. They want to feed the poor, educate the unschooled, they want 'social justice' (you're going to be hearing that phrase more and more these days) and economic equality, and transform this weary, war-torn world of strife, hatred and discontent into a paradise (they claim this is the work of the Gospel itself, but it isn't. Though feeding the hungry and caring for the poor are legitimate by-products of the Gospel certainly, the Gospel is about the salvation of repentant sinners, who desire God and a love relationship with Him via Jesus Christ and the work of the Cross) that will welcome a 'Christ' back, to whom they will gladly relinquish the reins of rulership, in order to inaugurate a new age of peace and prosperity. What a PURPOSE, huh??

Surely one that Christ Jesus would gladly endorse . . . right?

Wrong; Christ Jesus' kingdom will not arrive at the behest of a global-centered people whose values are humanistic in nature, socialist in their economic endeavors, syncretic in their ecumenism and satanic in their inspiration!! His coming will obliterate this imperial, idolatrous system! (Dan. 2:31-35, 44-45)

Christ Jesus' kingdom and purpose are as high above the aspirations of mankind's (or Satan's for that matter) grandest schemes as the heavens are above the sea slugs that lie on the ocean's floor!

Even if they could have their way for this hopeless dream, how long would such a thing last? How long has any dream or ambition of any man or group of men lasted, any time in our history? Five hundred years? A millennium? two millennium?

What is that compared to the ETERNAL PURPOSE of GOD!
And what is this purpose that will span eternity! Paul is getting to that . . . eventually (you know how Paul writes!).

He first addresses another point, that is actually related to this Eternal Purpose. Access:

Eph 3:12
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him
.

Typically that word "boldness" carries with it the idea of 'confidence' in the King James Version, such as with HEB 4:16. Yet here in vs. 12 the word "confidence" is already in use. It would therefore be expedient to determine just exactly what these two words mean in the original Greek of the New Testament period, and see if they are related or not:

"boldness" in the Greek employed here is parrhesia, and it means, "all out-spoken, frankness, bluntness, publicity, assurance, also confidence, openly, plainly, freely." It denotes "freedom of speech, unreservedness of utterance (ACTS 4:29, 31; 2 COR 3:12; 7:4; PHILEMON :8) or "to speak without ambiguity, plainly (JOHN 10:24) or "without figures of speech" (JOHN 16:25). It also can refer to "the absence of fear in speaking boldly, hence 'confidence, cheerful courage' etc.

"Confidence" in this verse is from the Greek word, pepoithesis which simply means "reliance, confidence, trust."

So we can see that parrhesia has to do more with the attitude of acting freely in regards to one's words, speech, and in the manner in which they are conveyed. There is a liberality with the way speech is delivered, as among close friends or family who can 'say what's on their mind' without fear of reprisals or retaliation.

Pepoithesis has to do more with the attitude of entrusting something to another, to cause oneself to be dependent on, and reliant on another, and speaks of a willing vulnerability.

Finally there is this word 'access': In the Greek it's prosagoge, and it means "admission; the freedom to enter, through the assistance or favor of another". By this access, we enter into grace (ROM 5:2), and to the Father (EPH. 2:18; 3:12-14).

Verse 9 spoke of "the fellowship of the mystery" and that mystery divinely revealed relates to how the church (another mystery revealed by God) has this confident admission with Divine approval into the very presence of the Creator-King of all things! You want to talk about privilege with the Potentate? Lordly liberty with the KING of kings? All of this through the implicit trust and reliance upon Christ Jesus our LORD, through Whose blood we have this access by faith.

Once we enter in, we don't have to cower, and reel with trepidation as did the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow did before the 'Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz', but with confident assurance, to speak freely what's on our minds and hearts with our loving Abba, Father.

Now I'm quite certain that when we see our God face to Face, there will be a great deal of prostrating, quaking and holy, righteous fear, but of the utmost reverential kind and not the sort of terror and paralyzing fear that the unsaved will no doubt experience once they meet their Maker!

This access, and fellowship with God is at the very heart of this Eternal Purpose God established for us - because we are abjectly powerless, totally poverty-stricken, and unable to establish this for ourselves - and Paul begins to address the regally, lofty, holy and yet tender, loving and passionate Purpose of God in vs. 16, but we have a few more verses in between to get through.

Verse 13 is possible only because of vs. 12 before it, that is:

EPH 3:13
Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Any tribulations that we endure may be so endured because of that access we have to our God, to procure from Him all the graces and powers from that Heavenly Bank, necessary to steer a straight course, sure and true, through such hardships (and sometimes prosperity) that life is prone to!

Paul states that any tribulations he goes through is for their "glory" that is, for their betterment, and edification. Always the humble servant, willing to serve the saints out of a heart of love; that's Paul!

EPH 3:14-15
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

Here is the place you will find any servant of the most High; on their knees before the Father in a spirit of humility and willing servanthood, and he, along with the whole family of God, which resides partly in heaven, and partly on Earth have continual, uninterrupted, steadfast and secured access to Him. I pray that we all will take advantage of that access as much as possible through the course of our lives!

Only on the knees of such a lowly, humble servant is it possible to witness the greatest heights of God's glory and His most intimate of purposes and plans (GEN 18:17; ISAIAH 66:2; AMOS 3:7; 1 PETER 5:6); we witness this truth throughout the Bible, from the lives of Enoch, to Noah, from Abraham to Moses, and many others - each of them were granted revelation from God and they were able to receive it because of contrite, and humble hearts of meekness. To know of the LORD's plan for your life, for my life, we ought to seek Him with such a spirit as this, and as God's family, we can have confidence of speech in our prayers, and total reliance upon the LORD Jesus, knowing we are heard of our Father, and are able to receive answers and guidance!

Praise Him!

The whole family, in heaven as well as on earth, are named by the name of the Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. As members of God's family, are we bearing resemblance to Him? Any of His family traits being revealed in our lives? His love, grace, tender mercies, patience, peace and joy, etc.? I pray that this is so in my own life!
In the last remaining six verses, I can almost see Paul sharpening up his quill pen, and peeking into his ink well to ensure he has enough to finish this thought and wrap up the 'chapter' (even though the epistles didn't originally have chapters); he's about to go into overdrive as he reveals the awesome revelation in fervent, passionate prose, and its central theme is?

The knowledge of the love of Christ Jesus!

EPH 3:16-17
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

The inner man is the spiritual man, who is born of God's Spirit, as opposed to the outer man, who is the natural man or the carnal nature which is after Adam once he fell into sin. The empowerment of the inner man can only come through the Spirit of God, and not the self-determination of the saint's own will. The only one who can live the 'Christian life' is Christ Jesus. For the rest of us, its impossible; thus the need to rely totally, unconditionally, wholly and simply upon the LORD and His Spirit.

To those who disparage the doctrine of the 'indwelling of Christ Jesus in the heart' of the believer (some sects of Church of Christ, Oneness Pentecostal Movement, and others, among them, various cults as well), this verse is a proof text, among several more:

JOHN 14: 20; 17: 23; GAL 2:20; EPH 3:17-19; COL 1: 27; 1 JOHN 3:24 and REV 3:20.

We know of this indwelling first of all because the Bible plainly declares that those who are born of God's Spirit, those who receive Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior, are in fact, a dwelling place, a temple of God, and secondly we appropriate this truth by faith as it states in the verse here.

Salvation is by faith in God's Word of Truth as presented in the Gospel:

ROM 10:9-10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe [by faith] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. See also 2 TIM 3:15; 1 PETER 1:5, 9; JUDE :3

" . . . being rooted, and grounded in love"

How vital is it that a Christian become 'rooted and grounded' in the love of God?
At such times when one experiences what's been called "the dark night of the soul" or as extreme pressures and trials, and sufferings arise; when all the odds are against us, and we feel alone and afraid, and the fierce storms of tribulation or persecution terrify and threaten to engulf us, at such times as these, will we be tempted to believe a lie? Will we be faced with the possibility of doubting that God loves us, has forsaken us and succumb to it?

It is entirely vital that we are rooted and grounded in God's love for at such times as these, when we must endure and not fail in the face of trials, that this love will not fail us; that God will be present with us and His love for us is everlasting.

JER 31:3
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Rooted in God's love, like a tree whose roots run deep, and dig deeper still, plunging the depths in order to procure the much needed water required to sustain life and growth. Such roots that will allow that tree to remain steadfast, even when enormous buildings all about are shorn to the ground by lethal hurricane force.

So are we to dig deep in our relationship with the LORD; we are to pant after Him as the hart pants for water (PSALM 42:1) for our very spiritual well being depends on it! Our survival in life's storms and shakings requires it, and we must know that He Who loves us will never leave us nor forsake us (HEB 13:5)! Let us endeavor to remain wholly in God's grace, walking in the Spirit, empowered by Him and allow nothing to come between us and the LOVE that the LORD has for us! (JUDE :21)

COL 2:7
Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

The other word used in the vs. of Ephesians chapter 3 is "grounded in love"

The Greek word for this is themelioo and it means "to lay a basis for, erect, consolidate, lay the foundation, ground, settle (MATT 7:25; LUKE 6:48 as well as in a metaphorical/spiritual sense in EPH 3:17, COL 1:23, 1 PETER 5:10)".

EPH 3:18-19
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

"Comprehend" here is katalambano, and among other meanings, it refers to "laying one hand's on, apprehending". Colloquially we might say, "get your arms around" and how can one do that with the breadth, length, depth and height of the love of Christ, especially when one considers the extreme measures He took to prove this love for us?

How? Only by the Spirit of God Who alone can impart that which "passes knowledge" Paul's desire is that we might be "filled with the fulness of God" Who is Himself Love"! What a glorious place to be in, Amen?

" . . . to know the love of Christ . . . " That word "know" is a very well known Greek word, ginosko, and it has a very WIDE number of applications, but one that's particularly useful here is as follows:

In the New Testament ginosko frequently indicates a relation between the person 'knowing' and the object known, in this case, the believer is doing the knowing, and Jesus Christ is the object, and of course the roles are reversed in such instances as when the LORD Jesus said:

JOHN 10:14
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine

Further, this particular rendering of ginosko states:

" . . . in this respect, what is "known" is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of a relationship; also 'to be known of God' suggests approval and bears the meaning 'to be approved'. Such knowledge is obtained, not by mere intellectual activity, but by operation of the Holy Spirit consequent upon acceptance of Christ [Jesus], nor is such knowledge marked with finality (2 PETER 3:18).

This is important to realize, that scholastic study of the scriptures alone is not sufficient to know Jesus; one must also be born of God's Spirit, and in fact this is the primary pre-requisite that must be established before one can ever hope to 'know' Jesus and His Word in this sense of ginosko (1 COR 2: 7-16). This is not to say that those who are seeking Truth, and desire to know Jesus are unable to have understanding imparted to them by God; the LORD does enlighten and His light does in fact shine upon all (JOHN 1:9). God promises that if you seek Him, you will find Him, if you seek with all of your heart (DEUT 4:29; JER 29:13).

Once the living, breathing, actual relationship with Jesus the LORD and Savior and Head of the church is established, then and only then is it vital to . . .

2 TIM 2:15
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Lastly, the final two verses of this most awesome chapter:

EPH 3:20-21
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, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

God's limitless abilities is in direct proportion to our inability to comprehend them in the natural realm of our limited minds, thus the "exceeding abundantly above" portion of these verses. Yet while we cannot in and of ourselves understand these abilities, they nonetheless work in us by the power of God! It's like electricity; scientists still aren't even sure what electricity even is, and yet not understanding its essential nature doesn't deny us the ability to employ its uses.
We may not understand God fully or how it is that His power works in us, but we can nonetheless employ the power of God in our lives, and by the power of His Spirit, do great exploits for GOD!

Remember the old saying, "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called!" God is, as it were, a 'complete kit' in that when He comes into our lives, He comes complete with instructions (His Word) and the power (His Spirit) and the means by which it all works together (His grace and love)! "Batteries and glue included" you might say!

When I think about the prayer life I have, and other saints close to me, I sometimes wonder if we stifle God by our tiny prayers. Sometimes I think we don't ask great enough things of God, especially when one considers Who God is, and what He is capable of!
To think that He is able to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask..." I don't know about you, but I often settle for less than what I originally have in mind, when I voice my prayers to God. What I hold in my heart can be a rather bold and in my mind, an 'over-large' request of God. Yet God is able to do not just above what we ask but as the verse states:

". . . all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us"!
According to the power, the very Spirit of God who formed the Universe all about us, by Whose power Christ Jesus has RISEN FROM THE DEAD; this is power that all the nuclear weapons of this world combined would pale to in comparison!

This kind of power must be wielded in hearts that are yielded, humble, submissive, tender hearted towards the LORD of Glory, for only in and through such hearts can this power flow without sinful impediments; only such hearts that exalt God's will supremely above any and all other considerations can be entrusted with such power.

No one wielded this power as greatly as the LORD Jesus Himself who came not in His own name or power, He who laid aside His own glory, and was thus entirely dependent and yielded to the Father's will is our grand example.
This is why its so important saints, to live the crucified life: the more we put to death our carnal nature, the more we mortify the deeds of the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof, the more present will be the power of Christ in our lives, and His nature will likewise be manifest in us. Thus the spiritual power and the spiritual maturity will go hand in hand, as we place both of ours on the plow and not look back, but persevere in our labor in the Kingdom - for God, for our love to Abba, and for His Glory alone!

EPH 3: 21 "Unto Him be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

May the blessings of our Dear and Precious LORD and Savior be with you all, AMEN!!!
(next time, chapter four!)

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