In our study of Ephesians chapter four, we will look at light; its source today and in the future. God is light as we see in 1 John 1:5 and, when we accept Jesus, we are called to be the light in this world (see Matthew 5). We also see, in Revelation 21, that, when the heavens and earth are made new, God will once again provide light for all of creation.
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As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
We see, in Acts 19, that Ephesus was a very dark place as it was a center of all kinds of satanic things. Paul begins this letter to the people by urging them to live up to their calling which is to be a bright light in that very dark place. We have the same calling and it seems that the world today is darker than it has ever been before so this letter is for us as well.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Paul gets right down to what it means to be the light and it begins with humility. That humbleness comes from the realization that we are nothing and in fact are incapable of anything useful without the grace of God. The second thing is to be gentle in our dealings with those around us even though they may be very difficult and may even be used by the devil. There are varying degrees of light and the degree of light to be used is based on the task just as we have different levels of light in our homes and dimmer switches to control the amount. A big bright light helps us to see a problem and is necessary to point out sin and the need for a savior but a more gentle light is used to encourage and instruct those that know they need the Lord. Paul also reminds us that we are to bear with one another and that is accepting people where they are in their walk with Christ and encouraging them to grow.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There is only one God and one hope which is to spend eternity with Him through Jesus Christ. There is only one Spirit that is of God and only one can be in charge (be the light). The only one qualified to be in charge is the Creator of all. If we just allow God to do His will in our lives and the life of the church, then it will function as a unified body.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Each and every one of us must fall back on grace because we all have sinned and grace is the only cure. No matter how many sins you have committed or how few it seems someone else has done, God's grace covers them both.
This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.' (What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 which is about the exodus of God's people from captivity in Egypt as well as our escape from the captivity of sin. This passage also speaks to the fact that, when Jesus died on the cross, he went to share the gospel with those people who had died yet not heard the good news.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
We see here that no true calling originates with the will of man but only through the will of God. Those that God calls He also equips for the work. These days we have gotten away from the calling of God and instead taught people that they can go to a college to get prepared to do these things. A college can be a tool that God uses but it is still only God that can call and equip you for the ministry He has laid out for your life.
to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
No matter what the gifts are that God has given you, they are all given for the same purpose which is growth. God provides many resources (even this website) to help his children grow to be mature and productive. We have to acknowledge the fact that none of us are completely mature yet and we do not fully understand what we have in Jesus Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Now, we see another reason for growth and that is so that we will be able to tell truth from lies. It seems that today there are so many people trying to twist the gospel to fit their purposes which usually include making a bunch of money. We need to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ so that we will be able to stand firm in the truth and not be swayed by these slick tongued imposters of light.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
God is truth and it is contained in His word. Today, we have a mixed up way of thinking in that we do not proclaim the truth in love but instead we ignore the truth so as not to hurt someone's feelings. We see here that this stunts the growth of His children and they remain as little children instead of maturing into true disciples of Jesus Christ. He is in charge of all things and His way is truth.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Jesus brings us together into one body that is His and He is the glue that holds us all together. Just like a physical body, if a part is not functioning properly, you are sick and the whole body is affected. If we do not do our part here on earth, the body of Christ suffers. If we do not tell others about Jesus the Savior, how will they hear and come to be a part of the body of Christ? If we do not train them to be disciples, how will they be an effective part of the body? We do all of this out of love for Jesus and our fellow man.
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
Paul is telling us that it is not enough to learn to be the light; we need to be the light. That means that we need to be different than those who don't know Jesus. They live according to their own thinking of what is best while we are to live according to God's word which is truly best. On our own, we will not be able to do this but God has given us the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us.
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
Those that do not have the Holy Spirit do not understand the things of God. Their hearts are like sun baked ground where a seed cannot even be planted. God must do some tilling (preparing the soil) before they can even hear the truth.
Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
Those that do not know and serve God serve their own desires and many times these are pleasures of the flesh. After indulging in all kinds of these pleasures, they completely lose all ability to recognize sin for what it is. The sin draws them in and it becomes a continual search for new and more pleasures. This happened here in Ephesus and it happens more and more so in our culture today.
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
Paul reminds the believers that they didn't come to faith in Jesus Christ to keep walking in the ways of the flesh. Instead, they were taught the truth of repentance and forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ. There are many that want Jesus for a savior but also want the things of the world and let them be the lord of their lives. That is not the truth of the gospel because it leaves out our wanting to change (repentance) and allow Jesus to be in control of our lives.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that their faith began with a conviction in their hearts that they were sinners. This led them to repentance (putting off the old self). The old self was led by the same desires of the flesh that he spoke of in verses 17-19. These "deceitful desires" led to sin and separation from God.
to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
Coming to faith in Jesus Christ involves a change of mind where we stop following our own thinking and agree with God that He is right.
and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
In Genesis 1:27, we are told that man was created in the image of God. That image was distorted due to sin but, through Jesus Christ, that sin is removed. Not only are we to get rid of the old self but we must replace it with the new. In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus told us what would happen if we did not put on this new self.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
When you put on the new self, there will be some big changes in the way you interact with other people especially other believers. This first practical part of learning to be the light is speaking the truth. As children of God, our words must reflect the Word of God and that means every hour of every day. James 3 gives us more instruction concerning the need for taming our tongues.
'In your anger do not sin'. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 which was written by King David as he faced persecution. This passage is not telling us that we can't get angry but it is saying we must remember to forgive. When we do not forgive, then the hurt or anger hardens the heart and opens a door for the devil to work against us. The Jewish day started at sundown and so he is saying don't start the new day with leftover hurt or anger from the day before.
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Another part of being the light is actually doing some useful work. There are many people doing many things in the name of God but we must ask ourselves why we are doing them. We see here that the reason that we work is so that we can share with those who are in need. That is a great way to be the light in this dark world. If we are working to build up things here on earth for ourselves or even for our families, that is not the same thing. We must each ask ourselves (and truthfully answer) this question of why we are working.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
As part of being the light, we are to control what comes out of our mouths. A big part of that is watching what enters our ears and eyes. If you watch things on tv or the internet that are unwholesome, they will penetrate your heart and that is the type of thing that will come out of your mouth. It is the same with what we read, video games you play, or movies you watch. This "unwholesome talk" is not just cursing but also gossip or anything else that does not build someone up in their faith.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
When we listen and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be the light in this world. When we fail and sin, that grieves the Spirit as God only wants the best for us and when we do not listen we miss out on the best.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
These are not things that are consistent with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. We must remember that Christ died for us even while we were still His enemies. Instead of showing these things to us (which we deserved) He gave His life for us.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
It's not enough to get rid of the old self and the old ways. We are called to put on the new self and the new way which is love. Because of Jesus' love for us, we are able to know and show love to others. Part of that love is forgiveness just as God forgave us. This is not a temporary thing like we sometimes do but is a permanent getting rid of what someone has done to you just like it never even happened. That's what God's definition of forgiveness is and ours should be the same.