Sunday, April 29, 2007

Speaking the Truth In Love - Ephesians Chapter 4, Verses 14-16, 25

The Group enjoyed our fellowship at Kuya Ding and Ate Fleur's home last Friday night. Kuya Ding led our discussion on "Speaking the Truth in Love."
Our text came from Ephesians 4:14-16, 25.

The Zondervan NIV Study Bible's Introduction to the Book of Ephesians (at the International Bible Society's website) gives us the following very helpful insights to this "Queen of the Epistles:"

Author, Date and Place of Writing

The author identifies himself as Paul (1:1; 3:1; cf. 3:7,13; 4:1; 6:19–20). Some have taken the absence of the usual personal greetings and the verbal similarity of many parts to Colossians, among other reasons, as grounds for doubting authorship by the apostle Paul. However, this was probably a circular letter, intended for other churches in addition to the one in Ephesus... Paul may have written it about the same time as Colossians, c. a.d. 60, while he was in prison at Rome...

The City of Ephesus

Ephesus was the most important city in western Asia Minor (now Turkey). It had a harbor that at that time opened into the Cayster River (see map, p. 2429), which in turn emptied into the Aegean Sea (see map, p. 2599). Because it was also at an intersection of major trade routes, Ephesus became a commercial center. It boasted a pagan temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana (Greek Artemis); cf. Ac 19:23–31. Paul made Ephesus a center for evangelism for about three years (see note on Ac 19:10), and the church there apparently flourished for some time, but later needed the warning of Rev 2:1–7.

Theological Message

Unlike several of the other letters Paul wrote, Ephesians does not address any particular error or heresy. Paul wrote to expand the horizons of his readers, so that they might understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace and come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church.

The letter opens with a sequence of statements about God’s blessings, which are interspersed with a remarkable variety of expressions drawing attention to God’s wisdom, forethought and purpose. Paul emphasizes that we have been saved, not only for our personal benefit, but... to bring praise and glory to God. The climax of God’s purpose, “when the times will have reached their fulfillment,” is to bring all things in the universe together under Christ (1:10). It is crucially important that Christians realize this, so in 1:15–23 Paul prays for their understanding (a second prayer occurs in 3:14–21).

Having explained God’s great goals for the church, Paul proceeds to show the steps toward their fulfillment. First, God has reconciled individuals to himself as an act of grace (2:1–10). Second, God has reconciled these saved individuals to each other, Christ having broken down the barriers through his own death (2:11–22). But God has done something even beyond this: He has united these reconciled individuals in one body, the church. This is a “mystery” not fully known until it was revealed to Paul (3:1–6). Now Paul is able to state even more clearly what God has intended for the church, namely, that it be the means by which he displays his “manifold wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (3:7–13). It is clear through the repetition of “heavenly realms” (1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) that Christian existence is not merely on an earthly plane. It receives its meaning and significance from heaven, where Christ is exalted at the right hand of God (1:20).

Nevertheless, that life is lived out on earth, where the practical daily life of the believer continues to work out the purposes of God. The ascended Lord gave “gifts” to the members of his church to enable them to minister to one another and so promote unity and maturity (4:1–16). The unity of the church under the headship of Christ foreshadows the uniting of “all things in heaven and on earth” under Christ (1:10). The new life of purity and mutual deference stands in contrast to the old way of life without Christ (4:17—6:9). Those who are “strong in the Lord” have victory over the evil one in the great spiritual conflict, especially through the power of prayer (6:10–20; see note on 1:3).

The 4th Chapter of Ephesians opens with Paul urging his readers to individually and corporately (as a church) “live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

God has graciously drawn many very different people into His church, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. As children of God, we are called to work together in the church’s various ministries and build each other 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.”

Ephesians 4:14-16 speaks of the wonderful blessings of Christian maturity, wherein disciples who are able to discern the truth from error, will proclaim what is right and true--and expose what is wrong or false; so as to lovingly guide, equip, encourage and unite the church in its spiritual growth.

God’s children should no longer live as if they were still the world’s brats. Our calling is “to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” This is the reason we should now speak truthfully; not to let our anger get the best of us; not give the devil more opportunities to condemn us. Christians who used to lead lives of crime now need to work honestly and share with those who are in need.

We must watch our language and use it to bless those around us. Let us not offend God’s Holy Spirit by going against all the good work that He is completing in us. We need to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

The care group was blessed by all the sharing and personal insights from everyone, as we tried to extend the application of Ephesians 4:14-16, 25 to see how it can guide us in speaking truthfully, in a consistently loving way, to those around us—just as Eph. 4:25-32 would have us do.

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