Lesson 8: "To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge"
Ephesians 3:14-21; 4:1-6
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson #8. In our last lesson we read all of Eph. ch. 3. That chapter is roughly divided into two parts: in the first 13 verses, Paul talked about his apostleship and described himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles and how God had revealed through Paul (and the other apostles) THE MYSTERY (that's what Paul called it in v.3). By THE MYSTERY, Paul referred to God's plan of the ages which existed in the mind of God all along; however, in other ages (i.e. in prior times, and by that I mean the Patriarchal age and the Mosaic age) God's plan was only partially revealed to men like Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. In v.5, Paul said, "in other ages [that plan] was NOT made known unto the sons of men, as IT IS NOW revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit..." Thus, through Paul and the other apostles (and prophets at time of Paul); God's mysterious plan was revealed more fully than ever before in prior ages. A promise was made (or given) to Abraham back there in an earlier age; something like 2,000 years before the time of Paul. This mysterious promise was finally made know, i.e. "revealed...by the Spirit" (v.5) in more comprehensive detail through Paul and the other inspired men at that time, than ever before. Re-examine v.6 closely! This so-called mystery of the past had to do with the church (i.e. the body, as it's called in v.6) and this mysterious promise came to be in (or through) Jesus Christ BY THE GOSPEL. That's at the end of v.6. Take the time to do a good fix on that. Now, when you see the word "gospel" here, think: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (as discussed in I Cor. 15:1-4). We are saved by the "gospel" (I Cor. 15:2). This gospel, i.e. the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, was made known to the Ephesians and to us through the apostles, Paul being the apostle to the Gentiles. So, in v.1-13 (of Eph.1: 3), Paul further elaborated on his apostleship. Paul did not feel adequate; however, he requested the Ephesians not faint at his tribulations (v.13), i.e. Paul did not want the Ephesian Christians to be discouraged or disheartened by Paul's imprisonment. Jesus had said (John 18:36), "my kingdom is not of this world." AND THIS (in essence) is the point Paul wanted to instill into his brethren, also. Don't let the physical thing of this world interfere with your spiritual obedience. Then beginning in v.14, it would seem that Paul returned to his original thought "for this cause" and began to comment upon what he had said back in Eph. ch. 2 and those comments took the form of a prayer as we talked about in our last lesson. That prayer makes-up the rest of this chapter (i.e. v.14-21).
I had hoped to cover all of ch. 3 in our last lesson; but, we didn't make it. We spend possibly a disproportionate amount of time in v.15 (on the name of the family), if you remember. If we were covering this material in an adult Bible class, then we would perhaps have more time for discussing these things. However, in these lessons we are simply trying to hit the high places, trying to get historical perspective, then locate, pick-up on any spiritual directives AND HOPEFULLY see how it applies to us and what we need to do in compliance. Most of the indepth analysis and association with other passages is left for you to dig out on your own. So, feel free to use those few lines at the top of your inside test pages to ask questions or make comments. I'm right here; I'll do my best to answer your questions. If I can find an answer, you'll get it. To do a good job in any study, most of the work is left to you, i.e. the student. What you learn is proportional to your personal involvement...not what's on the tape or what's on the test. These things are simply tools to hopefully encourage, promote and initiate your personal involvement that leads to learning; however, your personal involvement should neither be limited by nor restricted to these tools. And, while I am at this point; may I ask you again: please enroll others...please do. Get your friends and neighbors personally involved in Bible study. It's as simple as giving them an enrollment card and recommending they try it. Do them a service! You may, thereby, guide them to the saving of their soul (Heb. 10:39). Give it a try! Please do!
Now, if you'll put your eyes back on v.16-21, (Paul's prayer), let's make a few more observations. What was it that Paul was asking in v.16? (Eph. ch. 3, now). That God would grant you, i.e. the Ephesian Christians, (that family of saints IN CHRIST to say it another way); that God grant them...what? "To be strengthened with might by his Spirit..." How Paul? "In the inner man..." Do you see that? Practicing Christianity starts with the inner man, i.e. the heart, the center of the nervous system. Faith resides there, repentance takes place there in the center of the nervous system. We call it the heart or the mind. Paul called it the inner man. Do you get the thought? Paul wanted them changed inside...not outside. Get the heart right and a man's conduct will take care of itself. That substance that produces the fruit comes forth from the grass roots. It is an unseen entity. Thoughts generate actions. Get a man's thoughts right and his actions will come out honorable. You can't fill the mind with all the grime and slime oosing from a T.V. tube, murder, thefts, adultery and all of that juicy soap opera stuff and keep a pure heart. Jesus said: "those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and THEY defile the man...out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man." That's what Jesus said (Matt. 15:18). Jesus was not against us washing our hands or our feet or good sanitation in general. However, the thing Jesus wanted us to have and the thing Jesus commands of us is to have a "pure heart" (Matt. 5:8). Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Paul was trying to get this implanted in the hearts of those Ephesian disciples. Paul had said at the end of Eph. ch. 2, you will remember: "ye...are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." (v.22). God dwells in Christians! Christian hearts! Pure Christian hearts. In other words, the church of Jesus Christ...God's kingdom. How does God dwell there? Look at v.17! "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith!" Why does God dwell in our hearts? "that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend.. .and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." (v.19). You know: knowledge is just simply a collection of facts. A body of information, if you will. Christianity, real practicing Christianity is more than just a collection of facts. Back up and re-read what Paul said to these Ephesian Christians one more time. If Christ dwell in our hearts by faith and we are rooted and grounded in love, Christian love, then it's not just a collection of facts or a knowledge of Christian principles as some use the term. It's not just good Sunday School stories. It goes beyond that! Practicing Christianity (in a pure heart) involves every cell and every fiber of your body. And it is only when we reach this level of Christianity "that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Do you see that phrase at the end of v.19? This is what Paul was praying for and what Paul was trying to infuse into the hearts of those Ephesians Christians. God's Holy Spirit had this written down for us in order that we might understand and develop pure hearts also and that we might be filled with the fulness of God. When one is filled with the fulness of God, to know the love of Christ (v.19) this passes and goes beyond just simple knowledge. The idea of "filled" here is that the container is full, like a glass of water or a container that is ready to overflow, i.e. our total capacity is involved, our inner man is totally dedicated, we are rooted and grounded in love is the way Paul said it (up in v.17). Then in v.20 and 21 as if to hit a crescendo, Paul praised God in recognizing that our God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think..." God has no limitations. Not only does Christ dwell (or reside) in pure hearts by faith (v.17); God is glorified through Jesus Christ and through Christ's church, (i.e. through Christians that make up that church, v.21). AND, this will continue forever. Isn't that a great thought? Our God has great respect for a. pure heart. This was Paul's prayer for the Ephesian saints, that they "be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man..." (v.16). What a great lesson Paul! Amen! (v.21).
Now, ch. 4! After Paul's "Amen" he did a take off on this thought..."! therefore." Do you see that? (v.1). "Therefore" means: as a result of what has already been said. Paul is saying (4:1), on the basis of what has already been said (i.e. the prayer, up above), "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, forebearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." That's one big long sentence. The word beseech is an Old English word meaning: I beg you. Thus, Paul is tenderly begging his brethren at Ephesus to do it right, "walk worthy of" your vocation. Many people today look at Christianity as an avocation (or hobby, in other words). Oh! A little Christianity is all right, if it doesn't interfere with business or hinder my social activities or my T.V. time. That is the thinking of our modernist society. Paul said (here) Christianity is a career, or occupation. Christianity is up front! It comes even before my job. Jesus said: "seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness..." (Matt. 6:33). "The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" (that's the next verse). That is 180 degrees from modern thinking. Instead of a vocation; many are on vacation when it comes to Christianity. As Paul talked with Tychicus, as Tychicus visited Paul there in or near the imperial prison, Paul connected to a chain that connected to a soldier; Paul must have sensed that the Ephesian disciples were not putting their Christianity up front, totally, as they should. Thus, Paul was motivated to write and beg (or beseech) these brethren to WALK WORTHY of their great Christian vocation. If Paul sensed laxity at Ephesus; what would Paul say today about our modern thinking? Just asking? You answer the question! Paul said: "walk worthy," not just toss God a few scraps of your life? Paul said: "walk worthy." How Paul? "With all lowliness and meekness [v.2]." That means with humility and gentleness. Not denominational arrogance! Paul said: "with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love." That means hang-in-there. Stay with it. Back in Rom. 14:1, Paul said: "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." Get serious! Stay serious. Walk worthy! Don't make a mockery out of it. Forebear one another in love. But, the same apostle which said that; said "not [to accept the weak in faith] to doubtful disputation." Christianity is not just one big long endless fuss, a controversy or a quarrel as some see it. Every Christian is expected to do it as Paul has instructed them here in Eph. ch. 4. That's why Paul wrote this letter.
Now, look at v.3. "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." And you should notice (in this verse) "Spirit" begins with a capital letter, meaning: Holy Spirit. Endeavoring means "to try," i.e. put some effort into it. One translation says: "Keep in the bond of peace the unity given by the Spirit." "Unity" means one, 0-N-E. Unity does not mean diversity or variation...variation...variation. Unity was GIVEN by the Holy Spirit. There are not: many churches, many faiths, many doctrines taught in the Bible. Denominationalism and divisionalism is not taught in the Bible. And, please notice in this verse, this unity is to be kept "in the bond of peace," i.e. without striving and without argument after argument and dispute after dispute. If we get focused in on WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?, we lose all that arrogant: I've got to have it my way, egotism. "Lowliness and meekness" and all those big words (up in v.2) then, just sort of come naturally. Paul had said to the Romans (back in 12:18): "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." Now, I want you to notice something here. Paul said: "If it be possible." Now, you must recognize, it is not always possible. Sometimes you are dumped into a catch-22 situation. You are criticized if you do, you are criticized if you don't. You can't violate you conscience. You must not disobey God. So, you can see what Jesus meant when he said: "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:14). But, Paul also said there in Rom. ch. 12, "as much as lieth in you." In other words, try with all you've got and give it every ounce of energy you can muster; however, you must still recognize: it is not always possible to live in peace with some people. You CAN DO your part; but, you CANNOT DO their part. And, Paul didn't say you could. You are ONLY commanded to do your part. Your obligation stops there. So, don't over step your bounds, now. You are not an enforcer of these things; you are simply a doer and a teacher of these things. What do you do, if they insist on intimidating you? "Let them alone!" That's what Jesus said (Matt. 15:14). Get out of their way! We have no enforcement powers. The Lord has reserved that power for himself. He'll take care of it. You can depend on that! Then, look at v.4! Paul said flatly: "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." Just one! There is one church. Not 300! Not 500! Not 1000, just one! One body, which is the church (Eph. 1:22-23). There is one Holy Spirit that gave us one Bible. There is one Lord Jesus Christ who came to earth and died on a cruel cross and shed his blood for our sins, NOT His own sins! There is one faith! i.e. one doctrine that shapes our faith. The word "faith1 as used here is undoubtedly like the word "faith" is used over in Jude 3, where Jude said: "ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Paul (here in Eph. 4:5) is talking about that "faith" that was once delivered to the saints. There is one baptism. Now, Bro. Horsley, which baptism is that? The Bible mentions Holy Spirit baptism, baptism of fire, baptism under the cloud (I Cor. ch. 10), the baptism of John (Acts ch. 19) and others. The word baptism is used both figuratively and literally in the N.T. One baptism!! Which one?? Paul?? There is only one baptism IN FORCE today. That is: water baptism (sometimes called great commission baptism), in the name of the Fat.her, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the remission of sins, it began on Pentecost, it will make you a Christian, when done scripturally. Holy Spirit baptism and John's baptism and those other baptisms are not in force today. Paul said so (right here): "one baptism." I'll be back in lesson # 9, until then: have a good day.