Hurray! I am overjoyed to be free from any pain or discomfort from the ear infection. So, I am finally returning to what I enjoy most: study the Scriptures!
I pick up where I left off, and we were just entering the fourth chapter of Ephesians and realized the many things we discovered so far in this study regarding the defense of our faith while living in a highly confused and dark world. Now we are going to look what position the church, the corporate body of Christ, should take in the world and what specific characteristics of its authority and power are.
As we move forward, you will instantly see that the place of the church is very confusing. On the one hand, some tell us that the church must ignore doctrinal preaching and individual salvation and instead, become involved with the problems of human suffering and injustice. Some liberal preachers and the press tell us the church must fight for social justice and that the whole reason the world ignores Christianity is that Christians won’t dirty their hands or risk their reputations. Some say that the only way Christians can show their faith is if they are willing to carry a placard and march, or risk jail in some picket line, join the fight against global warming.
On the other hand, others say churches need to speak against evil, to denounce Liberalism, support gun ownership, and if possible, preserve the blessings of materialism for Christians to enjoy to the full. They preach unbridled wealth and prosperity. We are to attack anyone who dares to questions the Bible or the special privileges Christians possess in our modern society.
Now, these two conflicting views of what the church should be, and how it should work, are perfect examples of the devil’s ability to drive people to extremes and weaken their faith and cause them to doubt the truth. Paul’s letter is calling us back to reality.
His letter provides a declaration of our God’s intention when He created the church, and clearly defines its purpose and its ministry. No, not just in the first century but now, in the twenty-first Century, as well.
Paul’s letter, takes us back to the fundamental issue, the basic, essential, underlying truth as we apply these things to every area of our lives. As Paul wrote:
As God’s prisoner, I beg you to live lives worthy of your high calling. Accept life with humility and patience, making allowances for each other because you love each other. Make it your aim to be at one in the Spirit, and you will inevitably be at peace with one another (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Paul is calling all Christians. His whole message is a condensed summary of why the church exists and explains what its function is supposed to be. But before we look more closely, we have to see how Paul describes himself: He calls himself “God’s prisoner.” Now, remember that he wrote this letter to the Ephesians from Rome where Paul was waiting for a trial before the emperor on charges of inciting riots, even implying the act of treason against the emperor himself!
These aren’t misdemeanor charges that will look bad on his résumé No, these accusations came from the Jews in Jerusalem when he was arrested during a conflict. After being a prisoner for two years in Caesarea, he was transferred to Rome. On his way to Rome, he experienced a shipwreck, but, at last, arrived in Rome.
While he was in Rome, he remained chained to a Roman guard. Although he continued to be a personal prisoner of Nero, he never referred to himself as Caesar’s prisoner. No, it is Christ’s prisoner. He saw beyond those chains, and the guard, and everything he endured, to the controlling hand of Savior, Jesus Christ, who was behind all things.
He never concerned himself with being in prison, being chained, all of the sufferings he had to endure. Turn over to his letter to the believers in Philippi. He also wrote that letter during this same stay in prison, and you will find that it filled with the joy and triumph and assurance that everything was all right; that he was able to look behind the visible things to the invisible things. He says in his letter to the Corinthians,
“We don’t look for things that can be seen but for things that can’t be seen. Things that can be seen are only temporary. But things that can’t be seen last forever” (II Corinthians 4:18).
Why would he say that? Because that is where all of our answers lie; that is where we find Truth; it is the explanation behind all visible things we experience. So no, he never says, “I am the prisoner of Caesar.” Nope, he realizes that behind Caesar, is Christ.
Jesus held the same attitude when he faced Pilate:
“You wouldn’t have any authority over me if it hadn’t been given to you from above. That’s why the man who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:11)
Paul’s comments have a direct bearing on what he is writing in this passage: the purpose of the church.
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