Commentary on "Community"
Day 4: Tuesday, June 16, 2009
“The Ephesian believers to whom Paul addresses his letter were normal, everyday folk who had come to know Christ as Savior and were learning how to make Him Lord of their lives. In Ephesians 4:1–13, the apostle Paul implores them to “live a life worthy of the calling” (vs. 1, NIV) they have received by being patient, gentle, unified, prayerful, humble, and accepting of the roles assigned them by God. Paul rightly understood that to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (vs. 12, NIV), required a spirit of sacrifice. This spirit of sacrifice was one way of preparing God’s people for “works of service” (Ephesians 4:12, NIV). (Teacher’s Comments for this section)
Ephesians 3 ends with one of the greatest prayers in the entire Bible. Paul asks for five things on behalf of the people:
He ends the prayer thus: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
This prayer is the preamble to his encouragement to the Ephesians beginning in Chapter 4. He is exhorting them to take their salvation seriously. Why? Not only will God make real in their hearts the very things Paul prayed for, but God also has blessed the church, His body, with incredible gifts – “given according to the measure of Christ's gift” (Ephesians 4:7).
In Paul’s mind, everything is focused on Jesus Christ. Jesus is the source of our forgiveness and salvation. He is the source of love and the Giver of gifts. All the so-called responsibilities listed by this lesson’s author are instead gifts to be made real in his reader’s lives. Yes, they were to take this seriously. Yes, they had much to unlearn, from both their Jewish and pagan backgrounds. But the impetus for everything was the indwelling Holy Spirit. It was grace (the very presence of God enabling them to be who God had called them to be and to do what God had called them to do—see Philippians 2:13) teaching them to say No to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-14), not the Law.
These people were not “learning how to make Him Lord of their lives.” He already was Lord of their lives. They were not required to have a “spirit of sacrifice” in order to attain behavioral goals. Rather, these things would be granted “according to the riches of His glory” (Ephesians 3:16). Paul encouraged them to excel in such things as humility, gentleness, patience, etc. not in order become better people, but because these things already were theirs in Christ. In other words, because they already were saints of the Most High God, they were to allow the Holy Spirit to work out of them towards others what He had already worked into them.
The responsibility of belonging is not a responsibility to do the right things, but a responsibility to walk by faith, radically trusting the indwelling Christ to be not only the Author but the Finisher of their faith.
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