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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Ephesians 4:17-19 (Lesson 18)

Home Bible Study©
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)

Ephesians (4:17-19)                                                               (Lesson 18)

Welcome to HBS.

Paul had spent three years with the Believers in Ephesus “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon him through the plots of the Jews; not shirking from declaring to them anything that was profitable, and teaching them publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance (change) toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:19-21).

In this passage we catch a glimpse of Paul’s great concern and his heart for these Believers.  We witness his love for the Lord and the Ephesian Church expressed with “words” but confirmed by good works despite the hardships which came upon him. 

So, the question Bible students should be asking is “Why did our Apostle Paul plead for this church to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another, in love, being diligent to preserve the bond of peace?  (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Paul’s saying this church is missing a vital “building block” and it’s hindering their walk.  The words of Jesus Christ tell us what’s missing.  When it comes to one’s calling, the words of Jesus to the Apostle Peter cut right to the heart of the matter.  When all is said and done, it comes down to whether or not you love the Lord.  The Believer who doesn’t truly love Jesus will not, in turn, love others.
If you’ll turn in your Bible with me to John 21:15, I’ll show you what this book says: 

 When they had finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he answered, "You know I love You." Jesus replied, "Feed My lambs."   Jesus asked a second time, "Simon son of John, do you love Me?"  "Yes, Lord," he answered, "You know I love You." Jesus told him, "Shepherd My sheep."  Jesus asked a third time, "Simon son of John, do you love Me?"  Peter was deeply hurt that Jesus had asked him a third time, "Do you love Me?"  "Lord, You know all things," he replied. "You know I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep (John 21:15-17 – BSB).

Now please turn to 1 John 4:20 where the Apostle John reinforces the Lord’s words: 

If anyone should say, "I love God," and should hate his brother, he is a liar.  For the one not loving his brother, whom he has seen, is not able to love God, whom he has not seen.

From these passages we learn love is a verb!  Jesus inquired three times if Peter loves Him (once for each time Peter denied knowing Him on the night of His arrest).  Three times Peter answered, “Yes.”  His last response to the Lord’s query is noticeably more emphatic than the other two:  Lord, You know all things, You know I love You.”

  Why didn’t the risen Lord accept his first response? 

Jesus said, “And because lawlessness is to be multiplied, the love of the many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

The word love is an overused term today; it has lost its true meaning.  It has reached the point where people use the word to express any positive feeling minus any real passion.  I’ve noticed people will say “I love you” as they depart because they believe it’s expected of them or because they think the phrase pleases someone.  Almost every day the media reports on a hit-and-run.  Somebody ran over an individual with their vehicle and instead of stopping, they run away leaving the person dead or dying in the road.  The love for others is growing cold.  Recent statistics show since 1973 when Roe v Wade was enacted there have been more than 60 million abortions in the USA alone.  Other than murder I can’t think of a more self-serving action than killing an unborn infant.  The elderly in America suffer the loss of dignity and love as well.  Only a few people in this country take care of an elderly parent.  The majority are shipped off to nursing homes and the like, where they spend the remaining years of their life enduring loneliness.  Thus, the phrase “I love you” has become nothing more than a rote experience, devoid of any real passion.  Looking again at Peter’s third response, we find his spoken words to the Lord were ardent.  His words revealed the passion within his heart and mind.

The heart and mind are mentioned thousands of times throughout the Bible.  If we were to chase down each Bible passage that mentions these two vital organs, we would come up with many different definitions for them depending on how each word is used in the Bible text.   Generally speaking, however, the heart refers to the part of a human that controls the emotions, desires, dreams, hopes and other intangible parts of our being. The mind typically refers to the part of a human that controls the intellect, reason, and thoughts.  Both the heart and mind are required for biblical faith.  This book says we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).  The heart and mind must be engaged in the faith process because to have faith in God, we must believe and trust in Jesus Christ.  Believing requires the mind, but to truly trust someone the heart must be engaged. 

So, here’s the thing I want y’all to consider many people, including Believers, are guilty of doing little to nothing in support of the phrase “I love you” and that’s Jesus’ point.

As clearly demonstrated in this verse from the Apostle John, love is a verb:  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son… (John 3:16a).  God did a whole lot more than just say, “Love y’all.”  He loved us by giving the world the gracious gift of His Son while we were still the children of wrath (Romans 5:8-9; Ephesians 2:1-3).

Getting back to the Lord and Peter, please make a note of the fact Jesus doesn’t let Peter’s three responses rest on words alone, no matter how heartfelt they sounded.  The Lord gave him instructions that when obeyed will prove Peter’s love for Him.  In this we see a definite connection between obedience and love.  In fact, obedience is often an observable expression of one’s love.

A young student in one of my classes once asked, “What’s the big deal with Adam and Eve eating a piece of fruit?”  I answered saying:  The eating of the fruit didn’t upset the LORD God.  Disobedience was the issue.”  Today a teenager demonstrates love and respect for their parents by obeying the instruction, “Be home by curfew” (Exodus 20:12). 

Jesus Christ doesn’t mince words in John 14:21-24 and in many other places, He clearly explains the necessity for and the relationship between love and obedience:

 “The one having My commandments and keeping them, he is the one loving Me.  Now the one loving Me will be loved by My Father.  And I will love him, and will show Myself to him" (John 14:21).

Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words.  The word that you hear is not My own, but it is from the Father who sent Me (John 14:24).

Adam and Eve is our first example in Genesis of those who verified they loved themselves more than they loved their Creator.  The man and the woman’s lustful desires, fueled by their pride, caused them to disobey God’s single command and this led to their unrighteous behavior (1 John 2:16).  Those of you who are raising children, or who have raised them, know a child who says they love you but routinely disobeys is prideful and demonstrating love of self.

Jesus gave Peter commands (not suggestions) to follow—“feed My sheep” thereby demonstrating the love he had repeatedly affirmed to his Lord.  Now the question arises “What should Peter feed the nation of Israel, a.k.a. the Lord’s sheep?”  The answer:  everything Jesus said and did!  In Acts 16:26-27 this is called “the whole council of God.”  In other words, the Word of God, especially the gospel and sound doctrine, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation, rightly divided.  In essence, the risen Lord told Peter to feed His sheepMe; “the word made flesh.”

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John14:6).

The Lord’s affirmation is all sufficient; meaning nothing more needs to be added.  So, why are professing Believers ignoring their Bible, looking elsewhere for answers or solutions for the problems they’re facing?  The fact that they are looking beyond God for answers to life’s problems reveals they don’t believe in the sufficiency of Scripture.  These folks resemble the Ephesian Church for they are unstable; not grounded in truth.  Because of their immature thinking and hardheartedness both groups acted like spiritual infants, children, tossed here and there by waves of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness, in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14, 17-19).

Please open your Bible at Ephesians 4:17-19.

The Christian’s (Love) Walk

In verses 17-19, Paul explains how the Ephesian Believers are not to live (walk).  Paul calls them to evaluate and adjust their thinking and conduct (hearts and minds) in this darkened world, which being in Christ Jesus requires (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21).    
Ephesians 4

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (4:17-19).

Paul’s rebuke to the Ephesian Church serves to demonstrate the fact that sound Grace Age (church) doctrine influences our mind and heart reflecting the manner in which we walk in this world.  Paul’s comment “walk no longer as the (unsaved) Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind” informs us some of these folks were not walking worthy.  This doesn’t necessarily mean they were not saved.  Just because people act like a pagan now and again doesn’t mean we should label them an unbeliever.  Salvation is God’s business, only God knows the condition of an individual’s heart!

During our study of 1 Corinthians we learned this church was spiritually immature, carnal in their thinking and their behavior, but Paul said they were saved: 

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified (set apart, i.e. holy) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:  Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1-3).

Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:  So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall also confirm you unto the end (1 Corinthians 1:6-8a).
Paul said “the testimony of Christ was confirmed (established) in you…  Although many of the Corinthian Believers acted like spoiled children, they remained God’s adopted children.  Their behavior did not alter their heavenly position.  Their lifestyle affected their spiritual rewards, but they did not lose their salvation (1 Corinthians 3:11-14). 
The Corinthian’s problem, like so many others, was they could not let go of the “toilet bowl,” i.e. the pull of this world (Luke 9:62).  If you’re going to follow Jesus Christ, you must lay aside all immature thoughts and worldliness.  These are mere distractions and offer nothing of eternal value. 

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).
Letting go of the world’s-systems; a.k.a. Satan’s playground (2 Corinthians 4:4) is absolutely necessary if you’re going to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called.  Biblically speaking, the world’s-systems originated with Satan after the LORD God put down the rebellion at the Tower of Babel.  When the rebellious people finally scattered to the utmost parts of the world, they took with them every anti-God thought and form of false religion out into the world.  A refined definition of the term world-system is those philosophies and values that perpetually influence humanity to think and behave contrary to God’s expressed will, i.e. His Word.  To be brief, the world-system is mankind and society functioning without God. 

Paul reminds the Ephesian Church of their former state outside of Christ in Ephesians 2:-1-3:  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the power of the air (Satan), of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in (what) the  lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of (what) the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.    

Paul said as unbelievers they were (spiritually) dead in their trespasses and sin…  In God’s eyes, every person born into this world is a child of wrath.  Expressed faith in the gospel instantaneously reconciles the individual and they become an adopted child of God.  Reconciliation is at the very heart of the gospel.  The word reconciliation means “to renew a friendship or to restore to a right relationship.” Paul’s letter to the church in Colosse explains this truth.  If anyone was going to be saved (reconciled to God) it must be through faith in Jesus Christ.  He is the only Person who can restore the lost individual’s relationship with God (Ephesians 2:12).    

Paul will address this “lifeless” dimension of the unbeliever in chapter 4:18.  But what is central to our study is what Paul has to say concerning the unbeliever’s relationship to the world and to the flesh.  As unbelievers, we were the “captives” of Satan, enslaved to sin, under his dominion, and governed by his principles.   We were, of course, unaware of our state or condition because he controlled us through the influence of the world and the flesh.  Thus, we once walked “according to the course of this world” (2:2) and in accordance with the “lusts of our flesh” (2:3). 

Today the world has convinced people Jesus is a myth, there is no heaven or hell, and there’s no such thing as sin.  There’s only living the life!  Therefore, they aren’t aware the things they choose to do or say are sinful, i.e. contrary to God’s expressed will.   With each passing day, the inhabitants of this world sink further into lawlessness and their love grows cold. 

Paul doesn’t use the term “born again,” but he did say the true Believer has been made alive to God; regenerated, in Christ (Ephesians 2:1).  Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit within an individual who has been saved by faith (alone), in which He imparts eternal life into the Believer.  This means eternity exists in you now for you are alive to God. 

True Believers have been raised from their previous spiritually dead state, to newness of life.  This means we are to renounce Satan, the world, and their dominion over us.  This is what Paul urges every Believer to do in 4:17-19.  We were also slaves to our own fleshly desires, but now as Believers we are to “put offfleshly things and “put on” the things of the Spirit (4:22-24).  But, I’m getting ahead of the lesson.  

In verse 4:17, Paul introduces this teaching with a formal reminder of the importance of what he is about to say:  This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord…” The term “affirm” means “to bear testimony” or “to serve as a witness.”  It is used elsewhere in the N. T. but only by Paul.  In every instance he uses the term to convey a sense of importance and urgency.  When our Lord sought to convey this same sense of importance, He used the expression, “Truly, truly …

Paul adds spiritual weight to his declaration in verse 17 by saying the words he spoke were not just his.  He said both he and the Lord affirm these instructions.  In other words Paul’s commands are the Lord’s commands.  As God’s called apostle to the Gentiles, he is the Lord’s spokesperson here on earth (1 Corinthians 14:37). 

Now Paul lays down the command which the Ephesian Believers are to heed:  That you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk …” Several things are implied by this command, so we’ll examine them singularly. 

1)      Faith in Christ is more than “lip-service;” it demands a radical change in the Believer’s heart and mind for these direct their lifestyle choices or their walk.  The words “no longer” and “also” indicate that Paul’s readers once lived the way he now commands them to relinquish, i.e. “let go of.”  Paul commands them to cease living the way they used to live and live in a manner that glorifies God instead.   

Applying this truth to today, we find many Christians with the mindset they are true Believers even though nothing has changed in their life.  They believe this because at some point in time they said I believe in Jesus, walked the aisle, said a prayer, filled out a 3x5 card and joined a church, even though nothing has ever changed in relationship to Jesus Christ.  True belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ will produce a life that glorifies God.  No individual can come humbly to the Cross of Christ and not embrace change.  We will not live perfect lives, but the lives we live will honor God.  The indwelt Holy Spirit will ensure that he or she grows (matures) in the faith (4:13).  There will be spiritual fruit in other words.  The fruit may be so minute only God can see it, but there will be fruit. 

2)      Following up on #1, this command deals with the Ephesians new relationship to the world.  Once, as a part of the world-system, they were separate from Christ, strangers, having no hope and without God in the world (2:12).  But now, as true Believers in Christ, they possess a heavenly citizenship, they are members of God’s kingdom because they are also members of His one body (4:4).  This means they have become pilgrims (strangers in a foreign land) in relation to this world (Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 1:1, 2:11). 

3)      This command deals with the Believer’s relationship to the culture in which they live.  The Ephesian saints once lived like Gentile pagans and the majority of their fellow-Ephesians still live this way.  Thus, the “pull of the world” is quite real.  Following the crowd, going with the flow, conforming to the world is easier than overcoming it.  There’s also less persecution from your peers and the world-at-large if you behave as they do (1 Peter 4:1-6).  However, Jesus said following the majority is not a good idea:  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13-14 - KJV).
4)      Paul maintains the moral conduct of Believers is the outgrowth of their mental processes.  An idle mind is the devil’s playground, so the dominant thought here, as we find elsewhere in Ephesians, is that sound Church Doctrine determines one’s conduct.  People become what they believe.   This truth is reflected in our Western culture.  Immorality is running rampant due to godless philosophers and skillfully propagated by the so-called institutes of higher learning where expressions of faith in Jesus Christ are now unlawful, but you can speak about Allah to your heart’s content…

The Way Gentiles Walk

The final statement of verse 17 through verse 19 describes the way in which Paul’s readers once walked as Gentiles, the way in which their peers still walk, and the way in which the Ephesians saints must no longer walk.

… that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (a.k.a. lust).

Our Apostle Paul characterizes the lifestyle of unbelieving Gentiles as a walk which is “in the futility of their mind being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God.”

The conduct of the Ephesian Believers before their conversion was the product of wrong doctrine, i.e. worldly philosophies and opinion (4:14).  Paul used the phrase “futility of their mind” in describing this mental impairment.  Futility does not mean stupid.  Futile efforts are those which do not become visible or that produce something meaningless, of no eternal value.  Opinions change over time.  God and His Word do not (Malachi 3:6)!  Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato were intelligent men and are highly thought of by many today.  But Paul would call their thinking “futile,” because their beliefs and their philosophies failed to produce anything of eternal value. 

For example:  the unbeliever (as a rule) believes life ends at their death.  Therefore, doing without and suffering is nonsense; it’s to be avoided.  Living for the day and physical pleasure is pursued (1Corinthians 15:32).  The Believer understands real life begins with faith and a relationship with Christ and it will never end.  Because of this, they endure suffering in this life for Christ’s sake, with the assurance that we will enjoy the glory which awaits us for an eternity (2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 20).  

Paul began with the positive statement, “walk worthy” (4:1).  But here, in 4:17, his statement “walk no longer” takes on a negative aspect.  Because the possibility of Believers back-sliding, “walking as we formerly walked,” is ever present, Paul’s saying you have to make a choice.  Some choices bring us into “harm’s way;” other choices bring us closer to Jesus Christ.  For instance, a person who decides to drink alcohol to excess, smoke cigarettes, or abuse drugs must understand these are all harmful and will quite possibly lead to a physical dependence or addiction.   The world’s wisdom steps in declaring addictions are a medical problem, i.e. “a disease,” so the patient is not at fault.  But God said drunkenness is a sin of the flesh (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:17-21).  Drug dependence is an immoral habit; it is acquired or learned from family members, friends, or the media, a.k.a. the world.  There are countless ads running today which depict a “good time.”  This involves having an alcoholic drink in one hand and a scantily dressed female in the other… not necessarily your spouse   

The Choice that Glorifies God

The Believer in Christ understands that he or she has been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), that is ultimately, to bring glory to God.  Consequently, all that we do should be to His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).  The unbeliever sees all of their life revolving around their own self interests, resulting in self-gratification, so this is their primary focus.  They view the idea of servanthood with contempt.  They are to be served and not to serve.  The thinking of the Believer is influenced by God’s revelation of truth in the Scriptures, while the thinking of the unbeliever is based only upon the individual’s perception of truth and reality.  It’s no wonder therefore; that the mind set on the flesh is vastly different from the mind set on the Spirit (Romans 8:5-9).  Paul calls for these folks to radically change (transform) their thinking (Romans 12:1-2), which in turn will change their heart (Proverbs 3:5-6, 4:23; Psalm 51:10; Philippians 4:7). 

Here Paul identifies the root cause of the distortion experienced by unbelieving Gentiles:

because of the ignorance that is in them
because of the hardening of their heart

After describing the mental condition of pagan Gentiles, Paul presses on to disclose the causes of their mental dullness.  Their thinking is futile because they are ignorant. Ignorance here does not mean “stupid;” Paul’s not referring to their intelligence. Ignorance, as Paul uses the term, refers to the “knowledge” which unbelievers possess, in which they have placed their trust, and from which they base their decisions.  Their thinking drives their behavior, in other words.  It may be brilliant ignorance, but when compared with the truth of God, it is ignorance none-the-less.  A person may be able to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity, but this knowledge won’t gain them access to God.

The mind of man and the heart of man are closely inter-twined.  When Paul speaks of the “hardening of their heart” he refers to the impact which the hardened heart has on the minds of fallen men.  Hardness of heart keeps one from seeing things as they really are.  This was true of Pharaoh, who could not see the “workings of the LORD” in the plagues of the Exodus, even when his own servants pointed it out to him (Exodus 8:19).  It was even true of the Lord’s disciples, who could not fully understand His teachings (Mark 6:52, 8:17; Luke 18:28-34).   

Men and women who are excluded from the life of God do not reflect the righteousness of God in their conduct.  So, Paul describes the moral outcome of the Gentiles’ mental decadence:  And they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (verse 19).

Those who are mentally blind become morally callused.  They lose any sensitivity to what is right or wrong.  Consequently, they enthusiastically give themselves over to selfish desires; the pursuit of things of the flesh (Romans 1:18-32).

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). 

Such men are not merely overcome by strong fleshly passions, they actively engage in the pursuit of their passions.  They do not dabble in sin, they immerse themselves in it. They pursue the satisfaction of their fleshly appetites with a fervent passion.  They are addicted to the pursuit of satisfying their fleshly desires.  Jesus only gets in their way!

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ephesians 4:11-16 (Lesson 17)

Home Bible Study©
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)

Ephesians (4:11-16)                                                               (Lesson 17)

Welcome to HBS.

It’s significant that the apostles and prophets are listed first among those to whom Jesus Christ "gave spiritual gifts."  We see this same order repeated in 1 Corinthians 12:28:  "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets....."  The Ephesian passage, however, defines God’s purpose for all these gifted men:  "....for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man...."  Wherever the Body of Christ exists, the saints must look to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip them to serve so that the Body of Christ may be enlightened and built up.

An apostle was one who had seen Jesus Christ “alive” after His death, i.e. an eye-witness of His resurrection and who could perform miraculous signs (Acts 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 12:12).  The term prophet was always used to describe a miraculously-inspired individual or in the case of a false prophet - one who claimed inspiration (1 Corinthians 13:1; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John. 4:1).  True apostles and prophets do not live among us today.  Yet, the Lord designed that they equip and edify us today.

Both apostles and prophets were men who received new revelation:

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12).

To the twelve Jesus said:  "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth..." (John 16:13).  Paul affirmed this truth in Ephesians 3:4-5 saying:  "...the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit."

This passage explains why the apostles and prophets are listed first in God's plan for the equipping of His people.  Revelation of the Lord's will as to what Believer’s should be and how they should live is crucial in equipping the saints to serve.  What would the evangelists preach and what would the pastors and teachers teach were it not for God’s revelation administered through the apostles and prophets?

The very existence of the church necessitated the foundational work of these men.  Of God's household, the church, Paul wrote:  "...having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20).  The image utilized by Paul is that of a building.  The cornerstone of the building is the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20).  While the work of evangelists and pastors and teachers is important, only the apostles and prophets are described as being the foundation upon which the church is built.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He (Jesus Christ) made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

In Ephesians 1, our Apostle Paul highlights the spiritual blessings God bestows upon all those in Christ.  In chapter 2, salvation by grace through faith is described in terms of being raised from spiritual death; being brought near by the blood of Christ; reconciled to God in one body, and being added as living stones to a spiritual house  that will last an eternity (1 Peter 2:4-8).  In Ephesians 3, communication is emphasized, that is, the revelation of all of God’s truths to man; which Paul called The Revelation of the Mystery.

Paul described himself as "the prisoner of Jesus Christ," because this was his current situation at the time of this writing.  He refers to his detention in verse 3:1, in 4:1 and again in 6:20.  Paul suffered incarceration for “the cause of Christ Jesus.”  He did not break any law; he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel to Gentiles.  Therefore in Ephesians 3:1 he describes himself in terms of his present condition, and reveals his dedication to the Gentiles writing:  "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles."

In verse 3:2, Paul said to the Ephesians:  "if indeed you have heard of the stewardship (dispensation - KJV) of the grace of God which was given to me for you (insert your name here if you’re a true Believer).  The root word for "dispensation" is the English word "dispense."  All through the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks about what God is willing to dispense to the true Believers in Christ.  Let’s be clear, this is about God's generosity in what He is willing to dispense to every true Believer, in Christ, in the Dispensation of Grace.

Now the information and instruction about what a gracious God is willing to dispense was given to Paul by revelation.  Note the phrase in verse 3:2:  "given to me for you."  The gospel was given to Paul, but not just for his edification.  It was given to Paul, to communicate to the Gentiles.  Listen again to these first two verses: "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if indeed you have heard of the stewardship (dispensation) of the grace of God which was given to me for you."  

This is about the dispensing of the gospel of the grace of God through Paul originally and then through his coworkers.  This is about the process and transition from the Dispensation of Law to the Dispensation of Grace which eventually produced the New Testament."

The Believers in Ephesus were not walking worthy of their calling, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another, in love, which means they were not preserving the Spirit in the bond of peace (Galatians 6:1-3, 10).  

Relationships cannot exist or thrive absent of (agape; sacrificial) love:  And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; Psalm 42:1).  In verse 4:11, Paul’s basically saying, “You lack love.  This is why you’re experiencing discord and disunity instead of the bond of peace” (Galatians 5:22-23).  So Paul writes to soothe the damaged egos and relationships and to halt the spread of false doctrine (1Timothy 1:3-7).  He does this by revealing these 7 truths: 

The church’s purpose here on earth
The importance of spiritual maturity
Preserving unity in the body  
Instruction in areas of maintaining high moral standards
Essential ministries within the church
Preparation for spiritual warfare (wearing the whole armor of God)
They were instructed to “rely on” the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul spent time (3 years) with the Believers in Ephesus.  He taught God’s Word and carefully guided the church leadership (their elders).  Then, before Paul left, he brought Timothy there to serve in his stead and to mentor them in the faith (Ephesians 6:21).

Once again, please open your Bible to Ephesians 4:11. 

Ephesians 4

11: And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and teachers,

During his final journey to Jerusalem, our Apostle Paul sought to meet in Miletus with the elders of the Ephesian Church.  When they arrived, Paul warned them about the false teachers who would arrive after he left with a specific purpose “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  The Bible doesn’t say who these false teachers were, but we may assume they came to this assembly of Believers claiming the office of apostleship, falsely.

Paul closes his gracious warning to the Ephesian elders with this statement:  “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish (rebuke) each one with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up (nourish your heart and mind) and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:29-31; 1 Timothy 1:1-3).  

In 1 Corinthians 11:13, our Apostle Paul unmasks these counterfeit apostles:  For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.

Jesus Himself labeled these emissaries of Satan as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).

There were two different kinds of apostles in Paul’s day.  There were the twelve apostles called by the Lord Jesus Christ to serve the nation of Israel (Matthew 10:1-8).  They preached the gospel of the kingdom on Jewish soil; they were able to exorcise demons, and heal the sick (Mark 3:13-35).  These men taught from the Old Testament scriptures to prove Jesus is who He said He was: 

I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48, 51)
I am the light of the world” (John 812; 9:5)
I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7-9)
I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14)
I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6)
I am the true vine” (John 15:1).

Then there is our Apostle Paul who stated:  For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5; Romans 1:1-5).

In the Corinthians passage, Paul is referring to Peter, James of Zebedee, his brother John (Jesus named them the Sons of Thunder), and the rest.  Paul’s saying the risen Lord spoke to him and called him to the office of apostleship on Gentile ground (Syria).  But Paul did not preach the gospel of the kingdom to the Jewish nation.  Instead he preached the revelation of the mystery, specifically to the heathen Gentiles.  So let’s be clear, Paul is not the 13th apostle!  He is God’s apostle to the Gentiles; the first to be baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, and this marks the beginning of the Age of Grace. 

Now let’s all turn to 2 Corinthians 8:23.  This verse explains there were two categories of apostles back in the day. 

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.

In Koine Greek this passage says, “They are apostles of the churches.”  Apollos, Barnabas, James (Jesus’ half brother – Acts 15), Silas, Timothy and Titus all fit this description; they were apostles (messengers) of the churches. 

Thinking this through, the false apostles couldn’t declare they were one of the twelve, commissioned by the Lord Himself.  The twelve were widely known by the churches, but these counterfeit apostles could show up stating they were apostles (messengers) of the churches.  They came in teaching another gospel, confusing those who had been taught God’s divine revelation of the mystery of grace.  The spiritually immature Believers who were “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming,” were easily deceived.

I pray you are starting to understand God’s purpose for these church offices.  Godly men were called to guide the new Believers in the faith through the spoken Word because there was no New Testament. 

Now, let’s examine these three remaining church offices:   

Evangelists – last week we learned the only person formerly called an evangelist was Phillip.  He was not an apostle; he was one of the seven Spirit-filled deacons of the Jerusalem Church.  From the account in Acts 8 we also learn in the first century church evangelism was performed by going and not by inviting people to the house church.  The evangelist preached the gospel in those places where it had not been heard, which means it was a traveling ministry. 

In the passage below, Paul writes to Timothy (a messenger of the churches), instructing him to evangelize:   

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.  But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

When God withdrew the church offices of apostles and prophets, their roles were taken up by Evangelists, pastors, and teachers; minus the supernatural activity.  God gave His apostles and prophets the ability to perform “signs and wonders.” They were not only designed in response to Israel’s physical needs they were meant to nourish the Nation’s  greater spiritual need, that is, their faith (Psalm 42:1).   

The supernatural events of “signs and wonders” recorded in Scripture are acts of God that proclaim His sovereign power over His creation as well as his commitment to the good of His people.  Miracles are often significant because they serve a larger purpose in God’s redemptive plan, testifying to the authenticity of God’s messengers who bring his revelation to humanity.  This is one of the primary functions of miracles in the Bible.  When they occur, they give evidence that God is truly at work and they served to advance His gospel.  In short, miracles authenticate God’s message and His messengers 

We learn from scripture that Paul’s ability to perform miracles had ceased.  Paul performed a miracle when he raised Eutychus from the dead in Acts 20:7-12.  But later on he couldn’t heal Timothy’s stomach ailment in 1Timothy 5:23:  No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.  In addition, Paul was unable to remove the painful malady he called “a thorn in the flesh” which God gave him (2 Corinthians 12).

A mistake occurred when the churches began to teach evangelism is a spiritual gift and only the spiritually gifted could and should preach the Word.  The Bible doesn’t indicate this; in fact the opposite is true.  Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) is the responsibility of all Believers.  Sadly, many Christians are deceived by this false teaching and many accepted it as truth (not bothering to examine the Scriptures) because it relieved them of the burden of sharing the gospel.   

Looking to scripture to correct this error, we’ve already learned Phillip was an evangelist.  He didn’t operate from a house church.  He took the gospel of the kingdom to the streets and to foreign lands.  We find him preaching and teaching God’s Word in Samaria, for instance (Acts 8).    

Paul gives us the role of an Evangelist in the first few verses of 2 Timothy 4:1-5.  They’re not out and about in the world helping to overcome its social ills.  Their main role is preaching the gospel to the lost (unsaved) rather than preaching inside a building.  But here’s the thing every true Believer should know.  You are Jesus Christ’s ambassador here on earth and the Lord has entrusted you with the ministry of reconciliation.

Please turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17-21:  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us (not just evangelists) the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us

Every child of God is called to be an agent of reconciliation, but the sad truth is the majority never share the gospel with anyone.  Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”  Now some people in the church have labeled this statement nonsensical or foolish, however, I disagree.  Francis of Assisi delivered a clear message to the faithful.  Far too many Christians believe they can lead people to Jesus Christ simply by putting their own personal life on display for all to see.  This strategy is not only not biblical it is doomed from the start.  These folks fail to account for the flesh, i.e. our sinful nature.  Old Adam makes his presence known at the most inopportune times.  So, in this case, “actions” do not speak louder than “words.”  The “words” Francis of Assisi declares Believers are to use is the gospel, which a 4th grader can understand and repeat (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  I know because I’ve taught children of all ages and they get it!

Permit me to illustrate.  Just the other day I was traveling a congested road, driving at the posted speed limit, in the far right lane, when suddenly in my rear view mirror I saw a car speeding up behind me.  The driver got so close to my rear bumper through my rear-view I could read the exasperation and impatience on his face.  Patient and demonstrating self-control he was not!  I was merely following a long line of cars in front of me, so I had no idea what this driver was thinking.  Perhaps he possessed the ability to “leap a line of cars” with a single bound…  He finally sped around me on my left, cutting me off in the process; I had to brake.  As he sped away I was able to see the emblem of a fish and two decals promoting Jesus and religion on his rear bumper.  I did not witness this young man displaying any “fruit of the Spirit” in our brief encounter.  However, even a church deacon has an off day now and again, so I’ll not sit in judgment of this man’s behavior or character based on one experience.  All I’m saying is, if you’re going to drive around with religious symbols on your car be mindful of your behavior; the world is watching!  (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:1)   

This serves to bring us back to the teaching on ambassadors of Christ Jesus.  You are to be mindful of your walk (how you live in this world).  You can’t walk worthy of your calling… if you have one foot in the church and the other foot firmly planted in the world.  Jesus Christ was the first to overcome this world (John 16:33), and He has given each Believer the gift of the Holy Spirit to “help” them overcome “the flesh” and the constant peer pressure, that is, the pull of this world.  We are to be “in the world,” but we are not to be “partnered with it.” 

You don’t need to memorize the entire Bible in order to evangelize.  All you need is love and knowledge of the gospel.  Paul instructed Timothy to preach the word; be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2a).  be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of (who) an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:5;Acts 21:8).   In other words, Paul was saying:  “In order to make full proof of your ministry, you need to do the work of an evangelist."  Timothy was encouraged to be“a messenger of good tidings;” one who traveled and preached the gospel.   You don’t need to hop on a plane or train to fulfill your role as an ambassador of Jesus Christ.  We’re not evangelists in that sense; instead we are to “Bloom where we’re planted.”  Your ministry or “good work” begins right where you are.

Pastors and teachers– in Koine Greek this word is rendered Poimen (poy-mane’), Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek #4166, meaning:  shepherd, literally.  We have this example from scripture:  Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31).

While the role of the Evangelist is a special calling by God because he leaves his family and his home to travel the world to preach the gospel to the unsaved, the pastor leads and feeds the Body of Christ, usually in a building. 

For the sake of order, God has ordained various authority figures to govern the home, government, and His one Church.  Paul said to Timothy:  The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1Timothy 5:17).

In this passage Paul distinguishes between the ruling elders and the teaching elder, which would be the pastor of the local assembly of Believers.    The ruling elders provide spiritual leadership for the local church in cooperation with the pastor.  They all strive to work together, in the bond of peace, to resolve any and all problems that arise.  They also provide a spiritual atmosphere where all Believers can gather and worship in harmony.  Meaning we Believers should all understand the head of Christ Jesus is God the Father, the head of man is Jesus Christ, and the head of the woman is a godly man.  Pastors are the head of their assembly, but they are not to lord their position over the faithful.  Instead, they are to set a godly example through their leadership that any saint in Christ would desire to follow. 

In addition, the pastor or teacher should be faithful to their calling.  They should be “a friend in need” to the body.  They visit the sick and disabled and even offer spiritual counseling to the body.   Sadly we’re witnessing the opposite of this today for many church leaders have departed from the one faith, seeking to “feather their own nests,” or “in pursuit of personal glory.”  A man called to fill these positions will have a heart for those they serve.  They will be more interested in the spiritual well-being of those souls entrusted to them than advancing their own career or working to increase their bank account.   As I’ve said many a time, I’ve worked with pastors who held two jobs; a full-time assignment in their church and a full-time job to support their family.  As Pastor John said to me, “It is what it is.  The work of the Lord requires diligence and sacrifice.”

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9).

Then there’s the third person in a local assembly of Believers Paul called a teacher.  Not all pastors and evangelists are good teachers, and I don’t believe God expects them to be else we would not need a third church office.   So, these three offices in Paul’s day were filled by supernaturally gifted men.  God does not provide supernaturally gifted man to His Church today, but these three offices remain with purpose.   

To sum up, there are no new revelations from God.  “It is finished.”  The N.T. is complete and serves to equip and edify the saints.  No one should be expecting new revelations (Revelation 22:18-19).  Therefore, the evangelist, pastor, and teacher are responsible before God to proclaim the whole council of God in view of Paul’s revelation.  They are to encourage their assembly to study the Word, and rightly divide it.  The best teacher will serve as a guide, following along with God’s Word in order to explain it.  The Believer’s responsibility is to always open their Bible to see if what they are hearing or reading is actually the truth;

Test the Spirits:  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 (1 John 4:1).

(To be continued)

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