“Stop Fighting” ( Ephesians 4: 1-3, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Today, writing from prison, I think Paul might be emphatic. He might scribble ( ‘see, I write these words in my own hand’ ): “Stop fighting!” before he explains why Christians should not bicker. Paul does write gently here; and a bit later in his letter to the church at Ephesus, he begs his fellow believers to “speak the truth in love.” But, here he implores them (“I urge you”) to “accept one another in love.”

4 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.

Paul calls Christians to humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance ( tolerance! ) all of which lead to unity and “the peace that binds us.”

So how do Christians who disagree stop fighting? What is “speaking the truth in love?”

Examples (from a written social network debate) of “truth speaking”:

Person #1: “Heretic warning”  then boldly typed N-A-M-E of heretic. Then, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.”

Person #2: “Beware that the good presentation you give is not clouded by pride.”

Which spoken truth do you think Paul prefers? And, more importantly, which statement sounds more like God, the Holy Spirit?

“By His Virtue” ( Ephesians 3:20-21, WYC ) by Carley Evans

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism

“And to Him that is mighty to do all things more plenteously than we ask or understand, by the virtue that worketh in us [after the virtue that worketh in us], to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, into all the generations of the world of worlds [into all the generations of the worlds of worlds]. Amen.”

God is mighty. He is capable. He does “all things more plenteously than we ask or understand.” Almost goes without saying that we do not understand God. His thoughts are not like our thoughts; His ways are not like our ways. How many times do we fall into the trap of believing otherwise?

Jesus says for us to seek, for then we find. Paul says we don’t even know what to pray, so the Holy Spirit prays for us.

How can anyone think we are saved by anything we do? Rather, God declares His own virtue works in us to the praise of His glory.

“God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, KJV)

“Christ Makes Us Holy” ( Ephesians 5:25-26, WYC ) by Carley Evans

Bay window in Christ Church Hall

“Men, love ye your wives, as [and] Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, [that he should make it holy; cleansing it with the washing of water], in the word of life,”

Paul speaks to men, but he says something so important here that I want to put aside his commanding men to love their wives and focus on Christ’s love of the Church. Christ loves the Church so very much that He gives Himself for it. And, in giving Himself for it, He makes the Church — that’s you and me — holy. Christ makes the Church holy by “cleansing it with the washing of water, in the Word of Life.”

Yes, Christ is an example for holy living. But Christ is also the cause of holiness. Without Christ’s sacrifice, holiness can not exist in the Church.

“Therefore be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48)

“Put On The Full Armor” ( Ephesians 6:11,13; NIV ) by Carley Evans

Paul says it twice: “Put on the full armor of God.” Why? “So that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” and “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Paul then speaks of “our struggle.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Obviously, we do have a struggle after our salvation. And what is this struggle? We struggle to stand our ground. In taking a stand, we wrestle “against the powers of this dark world.” We also struggle “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We struggle here on earth; we struggle “in the heavenly realms” which is not to say we struggle in heaven itself. Rather, some of our struggles are physical; others are spiritual.

To withstand and even “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one,” (Ephesians 6:16) we need truth, righteousness, readiness in the gospel of peace, faith, our salvation, and God the Holy “Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) We need to “be alert” and “keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Paul calls on us to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10)

“Knowledge of Hope, Riches, Power” ( Ephesians 1: 18-19, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Together with Paul, I pray you may:

Know the hope of His calling.

Know the glorious riches of His inheritance.

Know the immeasurable greatness of His power.

Know the working of His vast strength.

Know Him.

Know His power demonstrated in the Messiah’s resurrection from the dead.

Know He sits above all authorities and titles given, “not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:21)

Know He is appointed “head over everything for the church, which is His body.” (Ephesians 1:23)

Know once you were dead in your sins and trespasses.

Know now you are “alive with the Messiah even though [you] were dead.” (Ephesians 2:5)

Know “you are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:5)

Know “this is not from yourself; it is God’s gift.” (Ephesians 2:8)

How are you to know this hope, these riches, this power, this gift? Through “a spirit of wisdom and revelation” that is given to you by “the glorious Father,” “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:17)

“Not Your Own Doing” ( Ephesians 2: 8-9, ESV ) by Carley Evans

“For by grace you are saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

You and I are saved as a result of a gift. Saul is confronted along the road to Damascus by Jesus — this is the Lord’s gift to Saul, who has literally done nothing to deserve God’s positive attention. Jesus blinds Saul not as a result of any action by the man, but as a gift to him. Saul says “no one may boast” when given such a gift. This gift of grace is “not a result of works.”

Of course, this is not to say that grace will not result in works; it does. But to claim the gift is contingent on those works is a denial of God’s work.

“The New Life Fits” (Ephesians 4: 24, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,” writes Paul. Webster’s Vest Pocket Dictionary defines “put” as “bring to a specified position or condition.” A perfect description of what God expects us to do; we are to bring ourselves into the condition specified for us by God Himself — we are to put on true righteousness, who is Jesus Christ. We are to put on His holiness. Webster’s also defines “put” as “cause to be used or employed.” We are to use Christ’s righteousness as our own.

The truth is not only that we are positionally holy; we are truly righteous because Christ is righteous and He dwells fully in us through His Holy Spirit, the Helper.

We put off the old self “which belongs to [our] former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.” (Ephesians 4: 22) We are then “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds.” (Ephesians 4: 23)

Our action is both a negative and a positive — we put off the old; we put on the new. The old is a foreign way of living while the new life fits us best because we belong to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

(by Carley Evans on Monday, September 21, 2009 at 7:27pm)

“Sealed When You Believe” ( Ephesians 1: 13, ESV ) by Carley Evans

When you believe in Him, that is, in Jesus Christ you are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of [your] inheritance until [you] acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

What you will acquire eventually is your inheritance. What you acquire now, in conjunction with your belief in Jesus Christ, is God the Holy Spirit. He is your seal, similar to a stamp of ownership in that you are purchased by the blood of Christ crucified. His blood buys you for God the Father, and His Holy Spirit guarantees your acceptance into the family of God.

Your inheritance is one you share with Israel. Israel is predestined to be the nation of God. You also – because you “hear the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation” and believe – are a child of God.

Therefore, “having the eyes of your heart enlightened… [you] know what is the hope to which He calls you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)

You are called to hope, to a rich inheritance through Christ’s great power to save. And, you are sealed with God, the promised Holy Spirit.

“Of No Effect” ( Ephesians 2: 15, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Jesus “makes of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He may create in Himself one new man from the two [groups – Jews and Gentiles], resulting in peace. He does this so that He may reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it.” (Ephesians 2:15-16)

Jesus puts “the hostility to death.” He makes Gentiles “no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household.” (Ephesians 2:19) Today, it is easy (at least in the western world) to forget that the Jewish people are the chosen people of God. He selects one individual to favor — Abram, and through his offspring, one people. Everyone who is not of Abram is rejected; that is, until Jesus.

Once Jesus reconciles the Jew and Gentile, there is peace. Up until that event, there is violence. “When the Messiah comes, He proclaims the good news of peace to you who are far away and peace to those who are near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:17) “The Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)

This peace — this reconciliation — emerges from the law having lost its effect — the law no longer provides the means to pleasing God, reaching God. Only grace permits entrance to the Holy — only through “the incalculable riches of the Messiah” (Ephesians 3:8) do we stand justified before God. The law is of no effect.

“Light In The Lord” ( Ephesians 5: 8, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Once we were darkness, “but now [we] are light in the Lord.” As children of light, we should walk in that light, “discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:10) Paul repeats himself, so that we know how important is his point. He says again that we are not to walk “as unwise people but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15) We are not to be foolish; rather we are to “understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:17)

“Everything exposed by the light is made clear,” says Paul. Jesus says that people come into the light so their deeds are exposed as “accomplished by God” (John 3:21) while other people hate and avoid the same light, remaining in darkness so that their deeds are not exposed as evil.

As we are children of light, a natural consequence is that we expose “the fruitless deeds of darkness.” (Ephesians 5:11) For this reason, Jesus tells us not to be surprised that the world hates us. (John 15:19) After all, the world hates Jesus first; it follows that the world hates us as well.

Our role is to reflect the Lord, to reflect His light. His light is love — sometimes soothing, sometimes searing. “The truth is in Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:21)