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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 our verse-by-verse study of the Ephesian letter written by our Apostle Paul in or about the year 62-64 AD. In chapters 1-3 Paul taught these folks essential Church Doctrine. In chapters 4-6 he commands them to apply these principles to their lives, that is, to walk worthy of their calling. Why?
The Ephesian Church was experiencing disharmony with one another and with God’s Word (Matthew 22:36-40). Due to this discord Paul commands these Believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” He then pleads for them to “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:1-3).
Paul wrote a similar message to the saints in Rome due to the discord between Jews and Gentiles there: So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:19).
Where there is an absence of love there is no peace! Therefore, the Ephesians were called to pursue (to zealously go after) those things which make for peace. The word "pursue" is a strong verb; it’s from the Koine Greek word dioko. It generally means: "to pursue, i.e. hunt as in hunting; to follow hard after." Paul used it here metaphorically expressing the need: to seek after zealously; to acquire. Picture someone running late for work seeking their lost car keys for instance. In like manner, the Ephesian Church was called to pursue peace in the body.
In the bond of peace (4:3b)—Paul’s saying the unity the Holy Spirit has given to every Believer is preserved by these four character traits: humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:2). If they walk in this manner, the result is peace. Paul's point is, although true unity among believers already exists because of the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, Believers must work hard to preserve it.
Why? Loving relationships do not just happen and they will fail to mature and produce fruit without persistent human intervention. Plainly said, relationships fail consistently because of the lack of peace. Feelings get hurt in every relationship, even yours.
Thus Paul is saying the unity of the body (true Believers) is critical. The first three chapters of Ephesians emphasized this. They are one new man, one body, one Spirit in one hope of their calling (Ephesians 2:14-16).
Believers walk unworthy of their calling if they disregard the unity of the body and don't expend the necessary effort to preserve what the Lord Jesus Christ died to obtain.
Please open your Bible at Ephesians 4:4-6.
The worthy walk is characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance. These attributes, derived from love (Galatians 5:22-23), should be noticeable to all if you are presently one new man (woman is implied) in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 2:14-16). The Ephesian Church wasn’t walking in this manner; consequently, they were not united in the bond of peace. This begs the question, “How are these Believers going to present themselves as “the Light in the Lord” to a darkened world in the absence of love and without unity ” (Ephesians 5:7-14)?
In reality, both groups making up this church were no different than the world in which they lived, i.e. walked. When you consider the church’s walk today it too is unworthy of the calling with which they have been called. Without any doubt it’s one of the reasons those outside of Christ continue to deny the Church’s confused message, and scornfully labels Christians “hypocrites.” Instead of being set apart from the world and pursuing the things of God, the Church continues to reflect the ideologies and lusts of the world they are commanded not to be a part of (James 4:4).
The Church is not one, in the bond of peace, and Christians are not trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus people in the church bear Christ’s name but do not resemble His walk. Their failure to walk as “children of Light,” that is, imitating Jesus Christ in thought, word, and deed (Ephesians 5:1), has led to an unproductive spiritual life (walk). The 500 or more Christian churches in America today have forgotten or have not been taught we’re all sailing on the same ship and the Lord Jesus Chirst is our Captain! He commands; we trust and obey.
That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one (John 17:20-22).
Jesus Christ prayed for God the Father to make His disciples one, and that they also would be “in” the Triune Godhead. God answered His prayer in the Dispensation of Grace through the baptism of the Spirit (no water, thanks). Paul teaches every Believer experiences the baptism of the Holy Spirit at salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13).
The walk of the Ephesian Church was embarrassing and shameful because Jesus Christ died to obtain unity. So, Paul begins this chapter by commanding both groups (Jew and Gentile) to walk in a manner worthy of your calling with which you have been called (4:1).
The foundation for the Bible passage were going to study is verse 3, where Paul implores these folks to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:3). The fact that Paul calls these Believers to preserve the unity of the Spirit implies the Holy Spirit has already provided unity in the “one body.”
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all in all.
Paul used the word “one” seven times in this passage, which is a list. Paul is not only describing the seven elements that make up the biblical basis for their foundational unity of the Spirit, he hammers home the point by prefacing every one of these elements is with the word “one.” (The number 7 in Scripture denotes perfection.)
Before we go any further we need to answer these two questions: “What is the purpose of God’s one Church and why is unity essential?”
Another term for the Church is the Body of Christ, a group of people unified (Ephesians 4:1-3) under its head, Jesus Christ, who represent and reflect Him to the world (1 Corinthians 12:12-17). The purpose of the Church is to join people with dissimilar backgrounds and talents and provide them instruction in the faith, on the job training, you could say, to hone their abilities and talents, so they will all walk worthy in a manner worthy of the calling which you have been called.
Jesus has entrusted His Church to teach sound doctrine. There are multiple influences in the world that claim to speak the truth, however, God the Father has entrusted His Word to the Church (Ephesians 4:14). But here’s the thing, knowledge of doctrine is useless if it isn’t used properly (1 Corinthians 13:2). So, the Lord Jesus Christ gave the first century Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to lead His people to spiritual maturity. By this they would be equipped to perform good works of service, especially to those who are the household of the Church (Galatians 6:9-10). The Holy Spirit is building up the Body of Christ, that is, adding members and helping us all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, maturing as children of God, attaining to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
The natural result of sound teaching and “walking in a manner worthy of the calling which you have been called” is a unified body, functioning as one under its single head, Jesus Christ; and each member pursuing the Law of Christ, i.e. seeking one another’s highest good (Acts 12:5; Galatians 6:2;Philippians 1:3-4).
Now let’s examine these seven elements:
4: There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
There is one body – Paul taught these Believers what this body is back in Ephesians 1:22-23: And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all thing to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
One body means every true Believer is one in Christ Jesus’ body organically and this came about through the baptism of the Holy Spirit:
…so we (every saved individual in Christ Jesus), who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:23).
The one body made up of both Jews and Gentiles is Christ Jesus’ Church which is subject to Him: …And might reconcile them both (Jew and Gentile) in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:16).
God has purposed only one unified Church on earth. The divided church today made up of multiple denominations (faiths) is not of God; it is the creation of man. Because of the contentious spirit that exists among the churches there is an absence of unity in the body which has created discord and rivalry these are the very attitudes and actions Paul was trying to “eradicate.” The churches today are not all on the same page, even though many profess to believe in and promote the Bible. Each has chosen to go their own way forming up separate groups in the process. Bottom line: today’s church reflects the same problems that existed in the first century church. For example, Paul preached (taught) salvation was a free gift of God through faith in the gospel. But the Judaizers (Jewish Christians) would enter after he left preaching salvation is obtained through faith, plus works. Today the churches are teaching just about whatever their audience wants to hear. They’ve ignored Paul’s apostleship and sound Church Doctrine choosing to entertain the people and teach opinion as truth.
An individual’s salvation is serious business. God deemed it important enough to send His Son to die for all. Opposing Church Doctrine creates conflict and discord. This does not preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; it divides the body.
The adage, “United we stand divided we fall” certainly applies. This phrase is meant to inspire unity and partnership, but anyone can see there is little of that in the church. Ultimately this means God’s one Church is not fulfilling its purpose on earth.
Jesus told His disciples they were “the salt of the earth.” In the same teaching, He told them, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The title “light of the world” is meant to describe a source of wisdom, goodness, or holiness.
What did Jesus mean when He referred to His disciples as the “light of the world?” A city set on a hill cannot be hidden because it’s in plain sight. Furthermore, people don’t light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, where it gives light to all in the house (Matthew 5:14-15).
The interior walls of first-century houses had small niches in which the homeowner placed an oil lamp for illumination, and from that perch, the lamp “gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:15). Jesus pointed out the absurdity of lighting a lamp and then covering it with a basket. Just as salt without saltiness fails to fulfill its purpose, a lit lamp placed under a bowl is useless.
In the Lord’s two analogies, salt and light were meant to correspond (link) with each other. The disciples are the salt of the world and the light of the world. Retaining their saltiness is equivalent to letting their light shine before men. Losing saltiness is equivalent to hiding their light under a bowl.
What does saltiness mean?
What is the light?
How can Jesus’ disciples retain their saltiness?
How can they provide light to others?
The Lord answered, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).
Saltiness and light are metaphors for good works performed in God’s name. So, here’s the thing; I’m not seeing conformity to God’s Word which is why there is an absence of unity in the body. The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, but most folks appear to be ignorant of this truth and what this means. Therefore we can ascribe the cause of the church’s failure to make a difference in the world to a lack of godly character, a lack of good works done in His name (4:2), and a lack of love. At the risk of hurting people’s feeling it’s evident Christians are conforming to this world and its ways, which means Jesus Christ is not their Captain (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t hold to the belief that God intended for each Church to be different, i.e. having different customs, gifts, and points of view (opinion) re: God’s Word, and varying religious rites. Let’s be clear, this is the direct result of a lack of spiritual unity and strict adherence to the scriptures. The fact that certain church groups deny Paul’s apostleship and the importance of his N.T. writings, has contributed greatly to the lack of spiritual unity in God’s one Church.
Permit me to illustrate: the football coach doesn’t prepare a “game plan” for each one of his players prior to game day. He submits his Game Plan and his players are responsible for studying it and acting on it. Paul’s message is clear and he “lights” the way in the Dispensation of Grace. Even though each Believer is different in various ways, they are all united and one in the body of Christ with strict marching (walking) orders (Ephesians 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:18-19).
One Spirit – here Paul is saying there is only one Spirit. Spirit is capitalized so Paul is referring to the third Person of the Trinity. Because of the discord and disunity in the Ephesian church Paul wants these Believers to understand there is only one Spirit, which means they too are one, united by Spirit baptism. Whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, adult or child, the Spirit has quickened and enlightened every true Believer, making them one body (1 Corinthians 12:6-11, 15:45; Ephesians 2:1).
Jesus’ death on the cross secured their unity in the Spirit (John 17; Romans 10:12). So, here’s the thing: there were different spirits operating within this church. Both groups refused to yield to the other, holding firmly to their beliefs. But which one held to the Truth? The spirit that preached Jesus Christ as the “foundation of our faith” and mankind’s only way to the Father is the true spirit of God (Hebrews 5:9).
This book says we’re to “test the spirits.” Just because you think something sounds plausible doesn’t mean it came from God. Let’s all turn to 1 John 4:1-3.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
In Ephesians 4:14 Paul wrote: As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of (what) doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
We test the spirits because the spirit of the anti-Christ has been operating in the world since Satan approached the woman in the garden in the form of a beautiful, albeit deceitful serpent. He first deceived the woman, and this caused the man to sin (1 Timothy 2:14). Deceitful workers (wolves in sheep’s clothing) have been leading Believers astray since the church began (Matthew 7:15; Romans 16:17-27). This book says Satan is able to disguise himself as an angel of light, which means He capitalizes on Believers trust in the light to deceive them. He can appear as something good when in fact he represents the opposite – darkness. People in the church salt their lies with a bit of truth, so it sounds right. So, it’s each Believer’s responsibility to establish what is and what is not of God (2 Corinthians 11:14).
You were called in one hope of your calling – this phrase harkens back to Ephesians 2:12. Paul’s saying all true Believers have the same hope. Every true Believer is the recipient of God’s promises, therefore they should be one.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1).
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
If you’re looking for a Bible study topic, I recommend studying the promises of God to His one Church. This is the hope Paul speaks of. The word hope here doesn’t mean “wish for.” It means certain; the promises of God to us Believers will certainly be realized.
However, the world’s viewpoint is different than the Church’s. The people outside of Christ are chasing after many things, in false hope. Hoping to win the state lotto thinking this will solve all their problems would be one, even though it’s been shown such a huge windfall causes more trouble than it solves. People stuff their attics and garages with man-made objects to the point that off-site storage is necessary (Matthew 6:19-21). The thing is once people capture whatever it is they’ve been chasing, they no longer want it. They then pick up the chase to fill what’s missing in their life anew. This is one of the reasons there are so many bankruptcies, divorces, suicides, etc., in this so called Christian nation. They resume their frantic, unproductive race over and over again oblivious to the fact this world and all that is in it is perishing.
Where is the hope? Most folks are failing to understand the “thing” they are searching for to fill the “void” within them is a right relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul understood this truth and expressed it with these words:
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, (Philippians 3:8).
Paul ran “the race” too; not the rat race which most folks are caught up in. His goal was much different than the people I’ve described. Instead of aping the world, Paul aimed to be like His Savior in thought, word, and deed to the glory of God the Father (1 Corinthians 7:31, 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; Hebrews 1:10-14; 1 John 2:17). Paul strove to keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing in every situation and provides an excellent example of what not to do while walking in the manner worthy of your calling...
One Lord – Paul’s saying the Jews and Gentiles in this assembly have one Lord and Savior, therefore they should be united, i.e. one in thought, Word, and deed. Paul desires for this church to correct their attitudes and their actions. He calls them to mature spiritually, leaving contention, jealousies, and matters of unimportance behind.
One faith – the Jews were zealous about their religious traditions and sought to impose them on the Gentiles. So, Paul said there is only one faith or only one set of beliefs (Church Doctrine). In contrast, how many faiths (religions) do you think exist in the world today? I bring this up because people think their “religion” is the only authentic faith. To be blunt, people are aligning themselves with their particular church group and not necessarily with the head of the Church. Consequently, they have little respect for other church groups because theirs is deemed true. It goes without saying with so many different religions in the world, and quite a few of these are rightly labeled “cults,” there is disunity.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam represent the top five. Then there is: Confucianism and Taoism in China, Shinto in Japan, Jainism and Sikhism in India. These are the major faiths in the world today. I say major because of the number of people who have endorsed these beliefs.
One baptism – Churches teach water baptism is important. Some church groups go so far as to teach baptism saves you. You’ll find most churches require a baptismal certificate or you being baptized with water before you can become a member of their church. In addition, most churches insist you sign up for indoctrination. The newcomer is required to complete a series of “church” courses that teach you whatever it is the church you desire to attend believes. This is to “weed out” anybody who would enter their assembly with beliefs contrary to theirs. It is supposed to “set you straight.”
Christian churches teach baptism by one of three means: sprinkling, submersion, or by pouring of water. This is such a hotly contested subject within the church should you dare introduce baptism in conversation it’s almost certain to cause an argument. Everybody believes they are in “tune” with what God has said about baptism, but God’s Word disagrees with anyone who requires water baptism of their church members in the Dispensation of Grace.
Paul received Church Doctrine by revelation from the risen Lord, so I’m going to stick with his teaching on this matter and others:
For by one Spirit we were all (all means what it says; every true Believer is) baptized into one body (no water required), whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:22).
There is too much emphasis being placed on water baptism in the churches and whether church officials realize it or not people (who are not studying their Bible), place spiritual importance on this work of the flesh. I say this because people believe they need to so “something” to earn God’s favor. This is human nature and it’s not to be trusted in matters of faith. Trust God instead. In Paul’s day, the Jews practiced water baptism because it was required of them. Our Apostle Paul opposed the practice being performed on Gentile converts. He said: For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void (1 Corinthians 1:17).
Simply put, it’s the same old thing: works of the flesh vs faith in the gospel (alone) for salvation. As I’ve already said, just because something sounds plausible doesn’t mean it’s the Truth. Most Christians have been taught baptism is required of them. Other churches teach baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation; no water baptism equals “no salvation,” in other words. These church groups place faith on the back burner. However, the Bible doesn’t say this. Water baptism comes under the heading of “works.” But as they say, “Where there is no harm; there’s no foul.” There is nothing wrong in submitting to the religious rite of baptism unless you’re attaching a spiritual meaning to it. Basically, all you’re doing is agreeing to get “wet.” Baptism holds no spiritual meaning in this dispensation. Those who teach that it does are not rightly dividing scripture. They are following the teachings of John the Baptist under God’s Prophetic Program. John the Baptist is not an apostle. If you want to know and follow Church Doctrine in this dispensation, go to the writings of our Apostle Paul, i.e. Romans through Philemon and I credit him as author of the book of Hebrews.
Therefore, Paul isn’t talking about “water” baptism. He said not in one, and the same water, but by “in” one Spirit are we all baptized. Please note there isn’t a different program for each church. Water baptism doesn’t place Believers in the church; the Holy Spirit does this the very moment you confess your faith in the gospel.
Following the rule of First Mention, we find a similar Spiritual baptism taking place after the nation of Israel was released from slavery in Egypt. They escaped certain death by walking through the Red Sea, in faith, on dry land.
Our Apostle Paul tells us this was a type of baptism: For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were (what) baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
No water was involved in Israel’s salvation. The nation of Israel and their gentile friends who left Egypt with them received this baptism. Men, women, and children were included. This baptism, in the Sea, freed them from slavery and gave them new life as they continued their journey to the Promised Land.
Before the Red Sea experience, an Israelite was a slave to a foreign power. After the Red Sea, an Israelite was a liberated child of God, belonging to the people whom the LORD God guided in a cloud by day and a burning torch by night.
In describing the nation of Israel’s freedom from bondage in Egypt, Paul is talking about an event that changes their life. The waters of the Red Sea harken back to the waters of the Noahic Flood. The waters which bore the Ark and all its inhabitants to safety are the same waters which drowned all those who did not believe what the LORD God said. The waters which opened the way to Israel’s deliverance are the same waters which drowned Pharaoh and his army.
Because of the LORD God’s miraculous intervention, the nation of Israel went through the Red Sea on dry land. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were drowned. So, the enemy perished, while the LORD’s people passed through that place of death into a new land and on to a new life.
In baptism, the Israelites were following Noah’s footsteps, so to speak. They were passing from death to life, from spiritual darkness to spiritual light, from the old world, steeped in idolatry and paganism to a new creation. They were separated forever from their past lives. Baptism is always a separation from the old life and the commencement of a new life.
Their very identity was changed by their baptism. Their name was changed from “Hebrew slaves” to “The Nation of Israel.” Their baptism did not merely represent their rebirth into the freedom of a new creation; God used their baptism to bring it about.
So, verse 5 isn’t informing us there is one baptism with water by whatever means. Paul declared a new, spiritual sense and emphasis for baptism. According to our Apostle Paul, every true Believer in Christ Jesus is a member of the Body of Christ and has been baptized (the washing of regeneration and renewing) by the Holy Spirit.
He wrote: For by (what) one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:9-12; Titus 3:5-7).
If you’re still in doubt about this truth, consider this question: Can water baptism identify a person with the death and burial of Christ Jesus? Can it identify us with His resurrection? Can water baptism cause us to “walk in newness of life?” Can any work of man accomplish these things? I don’t think so. Any work we choose to do will not bring about a change of heart and mind. Changing a person, who once was dead to a new creation in Christ, is a work of God. Paul taught the Church when a person believes the gospel, that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), he or she is baptized by the Holy Spirit. With this act God identifies the individual (Believer) with Christ and they become a member of the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church. God sees him or her as sharing (being identified) in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (v6).
Starting in verse 4, Paul said there is one Spirit, one Lord, and now one God. This is clearly referencing the Holy Trinity. I can’t explain how one God can be three Persons.
This is one of the things in Scripture you take by faith and move on. But because Paul said there is one God there should be unity in the body.
God the Father of all… - here I believe Paul is telling the Ephesians just as the children in a family are devoted to their parents and stand unified in this, the members of the Body of Christ ought to be united because we worship the same Living God.
(To be continued)
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