Today: [Ephesians 4:] Saved, Sealed and Equipped. In chapter 4 of Ephesians Paul articulates for us the reality that every one of us is called of God. In Paul’s view ministry is not something done by religious professionals but by believers. It is our privilege and our joy to be chosen by God to manifest His love and grace to one another and the world around us. In response to removing the contaminating influences of fallen culture, the promise is that the Holy Spirit will hermetically seal us within and without from every blessing robbing influence in our lives.
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[Eph 4:1-16 KJV] 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 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: 14 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; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: 16 From whom 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.
Ephesians 3 closes out with a declaration of the church as the instrument by which the glory of God will be disclosed in the earth and throughout all eternity. For this reason, Paul exhorts the Ephesians in v. 1 of chapter 4 to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called. In context what is the vocation or calling he is referring to? It is the calling of the believer to be an active part of the church that he describes in chapter 3. The call of God is not just something that applies to those who choose a career as clergymen or full-time ministers. Every believer is called of God and has a calling they are accountable for.
There are many functions and activities that we leave to the “professionals” that are actually our responsibility as believers. It is not safe nor is it scriptural to look to religious leaders to fulfill the functions of ministry that God holds us responsible to where our families are concerned or where others around us are concerned. You have a calling and a testimony before God that must be pursued and fulfilled if you are going to be found faithful before the Father. The question to ask is what are you doing with the salvation that God so graciously made available to you? Jesus went to the cross to make it possible for you to do more than sit in church on Sunday looking at the back of someone else’s head.
In the context of his remarks, Paul calls the Ephesians to tolerance and patience with one another in the interests of harmony and maintaining what he calls the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. This speaks to the solidarity of the church not just in a particular group but in an entire city. Remember that in Paul’s day there was no such thing as many churches in one town. There was one church and to have it otherwise was unthinkable. Paul declares there is one body (not many bodies of believers as it is today). There is one spirit, and there is one calling incumbent upon all believers. The thought of recovering this level of solidarity in Christ is unimaginable today in its difficulty and for the preponderance of Christians not even desirable to our shame.
While we are called into the unity of the faith (that is non-existent today) Paul goes on to declare that every member of the body of Christ is bestowed grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ in the new birth experience. What does that mean? That means that you are saved for a purpose. God has a plan for your life and a calling upon your life, and it is more than to be a passive participant in the programs of the local church. This calling in Paul’s view is central to the heart of God and the mission of Christ in his resurrection. He rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the majesty on high not just to bring something about in you as an individual but to establish His eternal purposes in the earth through the church as a whole that He expects you and me to be an active part of. If we are going to be a part of the unfolding purposes of God, it is then incumbent upon us to be equipped and trained to do so. It takes NO training whatsoever to sit in a pew or make a post on Facebook. God has a vocation, and a calling upon your life that v. 11-12 says is the basis for why Jesus gave the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher into the earth for.
When we read verse 11, we identify those five callings as the vocational callings of clergy in the earth. We say “yes those are our ministers.” The thing to point out is in Paul’s view they are not there to be ministers for us or in our behalf but to do what v. 12 describes as: “perfecting (equipping) the saints for the work of the ministry.” My question to you as a believer is what ministry has your pastor equipped you for in the earth? As a pastor or leader, I ask the question: what ministries have you equipped the people for that you minister to each week? Most ministers don’t look past the monumental effort merely to get the people to show up on Sunday. The call of God on the leader’s life and on the people is to do much more than this.
The five-fold ministry exists not to be ministers for you but to equip you for ministry with the end goal in mind that (v. 13) we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God unto a perfect man to the full measure of the stature of Christ. That is a lofty purpose! What is the standard by which we measure our validity and maturity in the things of God? No less than that of Christ himself who said: “these works shall you do and greater works than these because I go to the Father!”
[Eph 4:17-32 KJV]
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 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: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 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. 29 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. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
When the five-fold ministry is not in evidence in our lives Paul contends (v. 17) that we are no different than the Gentiles, walking in the vanity of their own minds pursuing selfish goals, without higher purpose, being alienated from the life of God because of ignorance being brought on by the fact that our leaders are not doing their jobs and if they did we would fire them because we don’t go to church to be equipped for ministry we go to church to be ministered to and little beyond that. Paul laments the laxity that believers fall into without proper leadership in saying (v. 20) you have not so learned Christ.
If we have heard him (Christ) and have been taught by Him (v. 21) we are to put off the former conversation or behavior and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. This goes back to ch. 2 where Paul talks about the spirit that works in the children of disobedience in contrast to the spirit of Christ that works in the heart of the believer. You are going to be under the influence of one spirit or the other. There is no neutral position where we may simply opt out of both God and Satan’s influence. Outside of Christ man is incapable of defending himself from demonic infestation. Being found in Christ, it is up to us in proper relationship to godly leaders to put on the new man which after God (v. 24) is created in righteousness (entitlement) and true holiness. If this is our portion and our inheritance what do we do differently than those around us in the world?
First of all, we stop lying. He is talking to believers here. Do believers lie? You bet they do. They lie so effectively that they don’t even take notice of the fact that they are doing it. Put away all lying Paul says (why?) because we are members one to another. We are also (v. 26) to be angry and sin not. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. To what degree is anger entrenched in your character? Popular culture and the media make every effort to keep you angry and chagrined at what is going on in the world. Why do they do this? It makes you more manageable. When you are angry it turns you into a commodity that the news media can sell to their advertisers all the while deceiving you into thinking their highest purpose is to keep you informed. You cannot think and be angry at the same time. Politicians are masterful manipulators at keeping you mad, so you won’t hold them accountable for their actions. God says be angry but don’t stay angry. Never let the sun go down on your wrath because when you do – you are giving place to the devil (v. 27).
Paul also tells the Ephesian believers not to steal any more but to labor with their own hands so they can support the needy. What were the Ephesian believers doing? They were not only lying, but they were stealing. Stealing and lying was so much a part of their culture that they had to be told to stop doing it. Their consciences were seared to the systemic corruption in their culture. Stealing was a way of life. Lying was a way of life, and because of it, Satan himself was securely ensconced in their lives.
Paul goes on to say (v. 29) to let no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouths. If it isn’t good or edifying and minister grace to our hearers it should not be a topic of conversation. Most of us would say “don’t be so naive!” We think we need to talk about what is going on the world. We need to make Facebook posts of all the horrible things taking place around the world so that we can be informed and know how to pray. What would Paul say? When we do such things for whatever purpose (v. 30) Paul says we are grieving not only ourselves and those around us, but we are grieving the Holy Spirit whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Do you understand the implications of v. 30? The Holy Spirit seals us with an airtight seal of grace to keep the contamination of the work out of our lives that will rob us of our blessings. My question to you is, are you a leaky Christian? If you lie and if you steal and if you entertain what Paul calls corrupt communication then I submit to you that you have sprung a leak and you wonder where the blessing of God went. You have made a place for Satan himself in your life and wonder why you are so opposed in your destiny. It is time to take a good hard look at your level of honesty, and the character of your behavior in order to restore to you the quality of grace that the Holy Spirit intends to fill you with for your good and for His glory.
Why do we engage in corrupt communication? Because we have (v. 31) allowed bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking in malice to flood into our lives. What do we do with all this turmoil? Paul says to let it go. Let these things be put away from you. What are the influences in your everyday life that provoke anger, wrath, bitterness, etc., in your mind and in your heart? Put these things away from you and replace them (v. 32) proactively by looking for the opportunity to be kind to one another. We are to be forgiving and understanding and tenderhearted toward each other, extending toward those who have offended us the same grace by which God Himself has forgiven us. Are you prepared to do this? Who are you angry with? Forgive them. Not because they have repented or that they deserve it. Just forgive. For your own sake and the sake of your testimony. In so doing you open the door for the restoration of that seal of the Holy Spirit to once again to wall you off from all the contamination of the world that has robbed you of God’s best in your life and in your situation.
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