59. Ephesians 4: “Laying Down the Law (of Love)”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 2/18/2016
(edited November 2020)
Last month we studied weaknesses in the church at Corinth. This time around, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul is still dealing with problems and tribulation. It was a little different at Ephesus though. At Corinth, Paul’s ministry and the church were under attack from forces within the church. At Ephesus, the attacks were from outside of the church. Pagan worshippers and pagan tradesmen had caused a riot at Ephesus which forced Paul to leave their town and he had to be very cautious about returning. For more on that story, see Acts chapters 19-20 sometime.
Speaking of tribulation, by the time Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians he was doing so from “house arrest” in Rome. The only charge against this man was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, something he had been compelled to do since shortly after his conversion on the Damascus Road. As we saw last month with his concern for the Corinthians, Paul wanted the church at Ephesus to understand that tribulations, regardless of the type or source, need not stop the Lord’s work.
Verses 1-2: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”
Paul’s message is one of L-O-V-E. Love for God and love for one another. It’s what I want to call a Law of Christian Love. Not a return to Old Testament worship, but a “turning to” the essence of New Testament worship.
Paul had put it this way in his earlier letter to the church at Rome:
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
And here’s something Christ said about it: in
Mark 12: 29-31.
“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
The goal of Love at Ephesus is UNITY:
Verses 3-7: “ Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
The Devil, like a roaring lion, stalks the Church. He always has. He wants to split the herd. Don’t let him ever convince you that quitting the Church or not attending your local church is freedom. It’s not freedom. It’s a trap. There’s power in our UNITY. And the Devil is keenly aware of that.
In fact, I believe Paul is saying, to reach our FULL potential in Christ we in the Church actually need each other! Listen:
Verses 8-15: “ Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
Did you hear it? It is through Love and Unity that we GROW UP spiritually! We need to be exposed to the gifts that others have received from God, not just the ones we have received. Now, this has nothing to do with Jim Jones and the Kool-Aid (if you’re old enough to know what I’m referring to). Our Unity should be built only upon Our Lord and His Love for us!
Verse 16: “ From whom (referring to Jesus) the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
O, our ministry is not just to the poor and the lost (though that is extremely important). Nor is it just to the Lord, as important as that is! We are also to minister to each other and that is a full-time calling, not just for the clergy, for each of us! Are you with me or are you thinking, “John, that sounds impossible!” Well, nothing is impossible with God’s help. Paul did know that it would be hard at Ephesus. Listen to this:
Verses 17-19: “ This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
There was some REAL sinning going on outside of their church. Paul reminds them that it needs to stay outside of the church. Sometimes, and I am guilty of this, sometimes even as believers we kind of “forget” who we are in Jesus and we start to slip and stray! This can damage the entire Church. Our sins may seem to be just between us and the Lord, but the damage we do can go way beyond ourselves.
Verses 20-26: “ But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”
You know, I don’t think it’s our fault if the Devil temporarily overpowers us or sneaks into our lives like a rat through some tiny crack. That is just part of living in a fallen world, and bound to happen. But if we knowingly stray from Christ ourselves, we leave the FRONT DOOR of our own lives wide open. Paul simply puts it this way:
Verse 27: “Neither give place to the devil.”
By being faithful to Jesus, not just on the day we got saved or on a Sunday morning but every day, we are protecting our own lives and guarding the Church, too. That’s a win-win situation!
Verses 28-29: “ Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
Only the Mercy of God and the Love of Christ can keep us from sin, even in the Church. Doctrines and creeds are fine, but it is the way we actually live and treat each other really proves our faith. We aren’t under the Laws of Moses, and I thank God for that today, but we MUST put ourselves under the Law of Love just as Paul describes it here:
Verses 30-32: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
Old Ephesus was a rough place to believe in Christ. And besides all that, their beloved Apostle Paul had now been incarcerated in Rome. None of it was pretty. There’s a lot of things going on in our town today that aren’t pretty either. But there, and here, the Love of the Lord, rightly applied, brings victory. Let’s pray.