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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday AM
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians could be titled “God’s Plan for Christ’s Imperfect People.” So, if those folks who are “in Christ Jesus” desire to know what they believe and then live their life according to those beliefs, Ephesians is the “go-to” book to study. In this letter we see how the gospel account affects each Believers daily life (walk):
(God) chose us in Him (through Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we would holy and blameless before Him, in love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:4-5).
For we are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
Paul closed the last chapter saying put off the old man and put on the new man. Lay aside falsehood and SPEAK TRUTH each one of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR (4:25); BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN (4:26); Steal no longer (4:28); Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth (4:29); Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (4:30); Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (4:31-32).
Considering all this, and more, Paul begins Chapter 5 with a reasonable command: “be imitators of God.” You can’t imitate a stranger. To know God fully you must first put your trust (faith) in the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), then the Holy Spirit will help you grow (mature spiritually) in holiness (1 Peter 1:2). The Holy Spirit also imparts wisdom for decision making (Ephesians 1:17), makes God’s Word understandable (1 Corinthians 2:9-16), and His power effects the outgrowth of our new nature which scripture calls the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 5:1-2.
Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
We’ve reached chapter five, but Paul hasn’t started a new topic. He’s still writing about walking worthy, or how Believers in Christ Jesus are to live. You see, there’s no such thing as a “part-time Believer. We’re to honor God by maturing in the faith and serving others to the building up of the body of Christ 24/7/365.
Thus, Paul begins with the word Therefore (the seventh therefore in this letter) which takes us back to Ephesians 4:1:
“Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”
The worthy walk imitates Jesus Christ’s walk. Paul’s emphasizing the connection between (agape) love and strict adherence to God’s will and that describes Jesus life or His walk (Hebrews 10:7).
“Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).
We’re not going to “be like Jesus” on this side of glory, but we can imitate His walk by genuinely loving others, even those who persecute us.
“Therefore” - this word always refers back to what Paul has already said and lets us know he’s about to add to those essential truths.
Paul closed out chapter 4, telling the Ephesian Church how they are to behave (conduct themselves in this darkened world) and followed that up with a series of commands explaining the required change. The motivation for these changes is genuine love for one another, this included their Ephesian counterparts, the unbelievers (4:23-32).
The word “Therefore” indicates to accomplish this change of heart and mind each Believer must imitate Jesus Christ’s love for others. This becomes apparent when you read verse 5:2:
..and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you (even the unlovable) and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Romans 14:15; Galatians 2:20).
Our Apostle Paul continually reminds these Believers the life they’re to live must be in response to what God has already done for them (and us). Here’s a brief list :
All true Believers have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world (1:4)
We’ve been redeemed by Him through His shed blood and the forgiveness of sin (1:7)
In Him we were sealed by the Holy Spirit (1:13)
Adopted as His children (1:5)
We have been made alive to God by Him (2:5)
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (2-8.
We’ve been baptized (placed) into Christ’s one body by the Holy Spirit (4:5).
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children” is a reasonable command. The expression “Be imitators of God” here means to express the idea of “becoming.” The Ephesians (and us) are to grow (mature in the faith) step by step as they imitate Jesus Christ’s love.
The Koine Greek word for imitator is Mimetes (mim-ay-tace’), Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek #3402, meaning: an imitator. Our English words mimic and mime are derived from this word. These words mean to copy something; then act it out. To illustrate, an actor or actress spends a considerable amount of energy and time studying the character they are to portray on the big screen. They become like the one they’re studying as Robert Downing Jr. did in his Oscar nominated role as Charlie Chaplin. But here, Paul’s saying God, our Father, wants us to imitate the One who saved us.
There are several scripture passages that state more directly true Believers are to become like Christ:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29a).
Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:49).
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
…and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:24).
the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked (1 John 2:6).
It can’t be stressed enough becoming like Christ is the natural direction of the true Believer’s life. If that is not true in your life, then you need to return to step one, faith.
So Paul was living out the same command he gave to the Ephesian saints; he was imitating Christ’s love. Please note his statement to the Philippians:
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:9).
He also instructed the Corinthians to follow him, as he follows Christ:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
In his letter to the church in Thessalonica we learn these folks heeded this command:
You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
So, Paul is saying, "Do as I do. Follow me as I follow Christ."
There’s a pre-sermon story that goes like this. A man was determined to know God’s will for him. So, he opened His Bible randomly and dropped his index finger on the page. He assumed the Bible verse would tell him what God wanted him to do. But his finger had landed on Matthew 27:5 which said, “Judas went and hanged himself.” Stunned by this, he tried again. This time his finger came to rest on the rebuke in Luke 10:37: “Go and do the same.” Even more uncertain now, he gave this one more chance. His finger landed on John 13:27 which states: “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
This story is an attempt at humor; however, it isn’t so far from the truth. It serves to demonstrate how most Believers approach the scriptures with little, if any, regard to dispensational differences. It’s not possible to know God’s will when Bible passages are taken out of contest (proof texting) and merely applied to one’s life because “It sounds good…” or “I found it in the Bible…”
Although many people in the church continue to deny Paul’s apostolic authority and his message, his writings are the key that unlocks the truth of God’s Word in this dispensation, moving people from ignorance to complete understanding. Once people are enlightened to his gospel of grace (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), all the so-called Bible contradictions disappear and people begin to learn the importance of walking worthy in this life to the glory of God the Father (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Plainly put, as the adopted children of God we are to become imitators of Him, but in what sense? We aren’t able to become god’s ourselves, as some cult religions and Oprah Winfrey preach, but we can change our character. Verse 5:2 directs us to walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Since Paul is referring to Jesus Christ here, we know he’s speaking of agape love. This is a sacrificial love which is uncommon to man. In fact, this kind of love is rarely practiced by humanity unless God is at work in the individual. The Lord demonstrated sacrificial and unconditional agape love at the cross. It was not a love based on pleasant emotion or good feelings about another, but rather the giving of Himself, selflessly, for mankind’s highest good (Galatians 6:4,10). Agape love rises from the character of the one who loves and not the one who is loved. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross in our stead for sin is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love (John 10:18).
Not many people are willing to lay down their life so that others may live (Romans 5:6-9). However, every now and again events occur that bring out the best in some people. The first-responders who arrived at the Twin Towers on 9-11 ran into the burning buildings while everyone else ran away. School coaches and teachers in Parkland, FL died willingly to defend their student’s lives. There are numerous accounts of men and women in uniform laying down their lives for their brothers and sisters in arms. These examples and others not mentioned here demonstrated genuine concern, love, for others. However, this is contrary to the world’s view. People are aware of Hollywood’s version of love, but understand little about God’s love. We know this is true because God had to command us to love one another. This doesn’t occur naturally. It’s easier to hate then it is to love someone sacrificially. But since we’re called to love one another, it’s time to put our faith into practice.
The love that exists naturally in the world is not God’s love, it’s a fallen love. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “…if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?” Jesus’ point is this, even sinner’s love in the sense Jesus spoke of, but we who are true Believers are to become Christ-like. We are called to be different than the world around us. We are called to love in the same sense God loved us, because He “gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Paul explained it this way: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:8-10).
God extended His love to all mankind “while we were sinners and His enemies.” His love was sacrificially given to all despite the fact we were outside of Christ from birth and rebellious in nature. God loved us because of His own character, not because of anything we did or tried to do (Isaiah 64:6).
..and walk in love, (verse 5:2a) - this is an important theme in Ephesians. We know this because Paul uses the expression five times in all. In 2:2, he mentions how we used to walk in our sins. In 2:10, he says that we are now to walk in the good deeds which God prepared beforehand for us. In 4:1, he says that we should walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. In 4:17, he says that we should not walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind. He will later say in 5:8 Believers must walk as children of Light and then in 5:15 we must walk carefully, not as unwise men but as wise.
The word "walk" implies a step-by-step, slow, but determined process to reach the goal of imitating Christ in this life. The command to "walk in love" should remind the Bible student of Jesus Christ's command to His disciples: “love one another…
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).
So, "walk in love" is not a new program or purpose for God’s one Church; it’s a command from God, repeated by our Apostle Paul to those who are in Jesus Christ.
If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37 – KJV).
We are to walk in love because our heavenly Father is the epitome of Love!
We know the subject of love for one another is important to Paul because he prayed Believers would walk in love:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father... so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Paul urged true Believers:
to bear with one another in love (4:2)
to speak the truth in love (4:15)
to build up the body in love (4:16).
He urges husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (5:25)
and as they love their own bodies (5:28)
as he (or she) loves themselves (5:33).
In summing up, Biblical love is not an emotion, it is a verb. It is defined in scripture as an act of selfless giving or serving others without regard to self. Biblical love does not seek its own gratification, but another’s highest good at the Believer’s expense. Biblical love says, "I will love you for love’s sake, even if I never receive anything in return." (See Luke 10:25-37)
..and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God (pleasing to God) as a fragrant aroma (5:2).
In verse 5:2 Paul’s saying when Jesus Christ died on the cross He was both an offering and a sacrifice. The LORD God commanded His people to perform five different types of sacrifices in Leviticus. The last two sin and guilt sacrifices deal with atonement for sin committed against the LORD’s expressed will. This was an O.T. form of reconciliation. The first three deal with fellowship with God. Each of these except the guilt is described as being a “soothing aroma” or “fragrant aroma” before God. It was pleasing to God to see His people desire fellowship with Him and He accepted their offerings. Jesus Christ, because of His great love, gave of Himself to pay the ransom for our sins, thus reconciling us with the Father, bringing Believers into fellowship with Him. His sacrifice on our behalf was a fragrant aroma; it was pleasing to and accepted by the Father.
So, once again, Paul’s saying we are to imitate Jesus’ sacrificial love. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded His followers to “love their enemies, be a blessing to those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for them” (Matthew 5:44).
The world-at-large does not believe this. It’s not natural to love your enemies. They believe in getting even and getting ahead (while they’re at it). So Paul gives the Ephesians practical applications of this command in the following verses:
But immorality or any impurity or greed (covetousness) must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; (5:3-7).
In verse 3, Paul lists three sins that have to do with sexual immorality. The first word in Koine Greek is Porneia which the NASB translates immorality. The KJV Bible translates it fornication. I prefer the KJV translation shown here: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;” Paul’s message said differently would be “There is fornication among you.”
Here we see Paul turning from his previous theme of self-sacrificial love in verse 2, to its literal opposite, self-indulgent sexual sin in verses 3-4. In these verses Paul is simply giving the saints in Ephesus a more detailed teaching of the Lord. God’s intention for Believers is either marriage, with absolute faithfulness to their spouse, or total abstinence from sex. The Bible does not allow for variations of this truth. But sad to say, many Christians today have abandoned or ignored outright God’s command to live differently than the world (John 15:19, 17:14-16; Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17).
Paul is saying sexual sin, whether it is labeled immorality, impurity, or greed (covetous) is a violation of biblical love. You cannot truly love another, in the biblical sense, and engage in sex acts with him or her outside of the marriage covenant. It is known as a covenant because marriage is entered into by a man and a woman before God as their Witness. This book says there is no such thing as sexual relations, outside of marriage, done in love. So, for Believers to practice pre-marital sex is contradictory to a true Believer’s walk.
This begs the question, or should, what was going on in Ephesus? I thought these folks were spiritual giants as compared to the Corinthians. Let's review their culture for a moment. The city of Ephesus was well-known for moral corruption. The temple of Artemis offered ritual prostitution as part of its worship. Ritual or cult prostitution was most often defined as union with a prostitute (whether with a female or a male makes no difference). They were not employed by the temple; they were slaves and prostituted themselves in exchange for money or goods.
Satan not only operates in his own children (the unsaved) but also on God’s adopted children (1 John 5:19; John 8:44). Satan’s two-prong attack on God’s one Church is from within and from the outside, with the intention of destroying it. Obviously, some of the Ephesian saints were regular patrons of these temples and took part in the immoral activity offered by them. This is how evil (sin) infiltrated their house church.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these… (Galatians 5:19-21).
“Flee fornication (immorality). Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18 - KJV).
Note immorality tops Paul’s lists! Opioid addiction and the consequent results of this terrible habit make the news almost daily. But sexual sin is man’s most common problem, and it is rarely spoken of. This is why Paul said not even one of these three sins must ever be named among you, as is proper among saints. Why? Believers are called to be holy and blameless before God. Therefore, sexual impropriety is not to be tolerated within the fellowship of Believers. The Corinthian church received this lesson from our Apostle Paul when he rebuked those Believers for their acceptance of sexual sin within the Body of Christ. Paul said it was immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles. Everyone seemingly knew about the man who “had” his father’s wife and yet they did nothing to oppose it (1 Corinthians 5).
…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them;
The words filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting appear nowhere else in the N.T. and I find this interesting. Filthiness refers to indecency, obscenity, or some shameful thing. Its root word is “disgraceful” (5:12). One example of this today is the sending of enticing pictures by young men and women via their smart phones, or what has been labeled “sexting.” Internet pornography, which is a billion dollar industry, is one more.
Silly talk – this is from the Koine Greek word Morologia (mo—rol-og-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #3473, and it means: foolish talking. The English word moron is derived from the root word. Biblically speaking, “the fool” is not someone who is mentally challenged, but rather someone who is morally deficient because he or she ignores God’s commands. So, here Paul is specifically saying any speech that disregards, ignores, or makes light of God’s commands is to be avoided.
Coarse jesting – is from the Koine Greek word Eutrapelia (yoo-trap-el-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #2160, meaning: vulgar remarks, coarse jesting. An example of this is someone saying something in a conversation that’s completely innocent and another individual twists the comment into something crass or vulgar. It’s turning someone’s words into a dirty joke or off-color humor, as most stand-up comedians practice routinely.
Paul said these things are not fitting; they’re not to be characterized by Believers. It’s not fitting for the Believer to engage in this activity and other Believers are not to participate by listening to such empty talk.
Paul gives them the alternative to these sinful things saying, “But rather giving of thanks.” The Believer’s speech is to be characterized by thanksgiving, because that is the mark of a heart that truly loves God and others. To give thanks you have to consider the feelings of others and the efforts they have made toward you. You have to set aside your pride and realize that regardless of your position, or worth, you do not deserve what is given to you. It comes by the graciousness of others; first and foremost God the Father:
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
The flip-side of this one-sided conversation is this. What about those who do not imitate Christ? Paul said, these folks do not belong to God’s kingdom for they are not His children.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; (5:5-7).
Again, this wasn’t new news to the Ephesian Church; Paul had already taught them this before. These three verses could be summed up: “God does not tolerate sin.” Jesus died to redeem mankind from sin and to free us from its bondage. The Believer is a new creature and should not keep putting on their “filthy, worn out garment” and live as they did before. We have a new nature and we should live according to it. Those who are characterized as immoral, impure or covetous are idolaters. They worship something or someone else (often themselves) as the god of their lives. No such person has an inheritance in the kingdom of God.
Paul makes it clear that such a life demonstrates the person is unredeemed because they are living according to their natural, sinful nature. It does not matter what they claim, because their words are empty. The Apostle John put it bluntly in 1 John 2:4, The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Let’s be clear, there is a difference between someone who has a genuine knowledge of God and admits their sin, explaining how miserable it made them feel, as they return to their walk and the individual who is content with their wicked lifestyle and their profession of faith is all but meaningless because their god is themselves and they are all about pleasure-seeking. In the one it’s evident God is at work in them while the other has deceived themselves. They think they have the keys to God’s kingdom when in fact they do not. One is imitating God and the other is not! These folks will not escape God’s wrath (Romans 1:18).
(To be continued)
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