Ephesians Study, Part 27: The First Three of Seven Graces

Review:

Two weeks ago, we dealt with Chapter 3 verse 16 and Paul's prayer that we would have strength.

Last week we dealt with verse 17 where he prayed that we would have depth, as portrayed by our dwelling with God, our being well rooted and well grounded.

Then in verse 18 he prayed for us to be able to really comprehend the vastness of God.    And he led us to believe that to comprehend this, we need the other saints around us.    We need to be surrounded with other believers to find the depth of the truth about God.    And I challenged you to get into a small group Bible study, or even lead one, to this end.

We ended with Paul's statement that God is able to do way more than we can ask for or even think of, through the Holy Spirit that is within every believer.  With that we completed Chapter 3.

Today's Lesson: The First Three of Seven Graces

So this morning we are in Ephesians chapter 4.   And thus we are beginning the second half of this incredible book.   The first three chapters of Ephesians that we have just completed are considered by many scholars to be the high ground in all the New Testament.   These 3 chapters contain really really marvelous passages.

Overview:

The first three chapters were about doctrine.  The last three are about our Christian walk.  It is interesting how Paul takes our spiritual wealth that he laid out in the first three chapters and then reflects what our response to that wealth should be in the next three chapters.   In chapter one he emphasized how we were called by Grace. In the first 16 verses of this chapter, he's going to talk about how we need to walk worthy in unity.   In Chapter 2 he talked about being raised from the dead and in the last part of this chapter we're going to learn about how to take off our grave-clothes.   In Chapter 2 we were reconciled and here we're going to be walking in harmony.   In Chapter 3 he emphasized Christ's victory over Satan and here we're going to see in Chapter 6 how we are supposed to be walking in that victory.

The Second Half:

So the second half the book is in a little different style.   He puts in the practical application of those truths that he laid out in the first three chapters.

Here again Paul talks about being a prisoner.  Remember when he opened Chapter 3 he made that same remark.   Paul is making it clear that he can be seated in the heavenlies with Jesus and at the same time here on earth be in prison as a witness for Jesus.   Paul is going to build on our duty that derives from the doctrines that he laid out in the first three chapters.  A parallel passage that, in a sense, might summarize the teaching in Ephesians Chapter 4 occurs in Romans Chapter 12.   Turn to Romans Chapter 12, the first two verses.  This passage should be very well known to you.

Here is Ephesians, he says:

You see it is God's urging.   This word implore is the same word that is used in Romans 12:1, translated as urge.   It's interesting that Paul, before he lays down all of the admonitions that he's going to give us, lays down the Christian doctrine.   The Christian life is not based on ignorance but it is based on knowledge.   And it does make a difference what you believe.  Doing these things is meaningless unless they are based on the foundation that Paul had already laid.   The Old Testament in effect said "obey me and I will bless you."   The New Testament essentially says "I have already blessed you, now in response to my love and grace, obey me."   It's a different style.   We are to walk worthy of our calling.  Many verses point that out in the New Testament, Colossians 1:10 and others.

It is interesting that he refers to our vocation, Paul says our calling.   We should walk worthy of the calling to which we are called.   What is our vocation?  In Paul's terms here, we are seated in the heavenlies on one hand but we are to be walking on the earth on his behalf, on the other.   It is very analogous to the book of Joshua.   Remember how Joshua was called to take the land and occupy it, but it was confirmed before he even started that the victory was his, he just had to go in and claim it.   Joshua and the people were called to cross over the Jordan and occupy it and overcome the land.

Alan Redpath has written a commentary on the book of Ephesians where he parallels the life of Joshua in the book of Ephesians.   It is called Victorious Christian Living.   He goes to some length to demonstrate the many parallels between Joshua and the book of Ephesians.

The first three chapters of Ephesians could be considered the Transfiguration on top of the mountaintop.   That high language that we saw in the first three chapters is contrasted perhaps to the last three chapters where we're to be confronted with the demon possessed world and skeptical mobs hostile to our calling.   Our challenge then is "can you now translate the truths of the mountaintop into the shoe leather of the valley?"  That is our challenge.   It starts here in Chapter 4.

The world says "do something and be somebody."   If you do something you will be somebody.   God's truth says, "be somebody and then you can do something."  You see, the world has it backwards.   It's interesting how many ideas of man are reversed from those of God.   People say seeing is believing.   No, that's backwards; God says believing is seeing.   If you believe God and take him at his word, you can see his truths.

Many of these admonitions that we're going to get into are very worthwhile, but remember he is only talking to Christians.   Remember, if you are not a Christian, you are on the sideline.   You're outside looking in.   If you are not a Christian, chapters 4, 5 and 6 do not apply to you.   They apply to the people that have been extolled in chapters 1, 2 and 3, who are the believers.

Seven Graces:

The main idea in the next 16 verses is unity.   Seven Christian graces are about to be listed.

  1. Humility: Now this is one of those strange Christian graces, because when you know you have it, you've lost it.   Right?   There are people who will readily admit that humility is one thing they do not do well.

    Incidentally in the Greek culture humility was regarded as a vice.   You might smile at that, but in our world it is almost is.  Obvious humility is often considered almost self-promotional.   In the Greek culture humility was a vice, only to be practiced by slaves.   You see Paul states that the Saints should be completely humble in their daily walk.   The opposite of humility is pride.   So pride and humility are contrasted.   Whether you're talking about pride of race, pride of face, or what might be the worst of all pride of Grace.  If you watch carefully, you may be surprised how often Christians are guilty of probably the worst of these prides, the pride of Grace.   Spiritual pride.   But on the other hand Christians should not promote false humility, but recognize that they all are in God's program.   Probably Paul lists this virtue first in his list because he is talking about unity.   Pride promotes disunity.   Paul is going to be concerned here for 16 verses about unity, and pride is one of the first things that promote disunity.   Humility promotes unity.   You even see that in the secular context.   It is amazing what you can get accomplished if you don't care who gets credit for it.

    There is a story about a young man as an impressionable teenager, who looked up to an older man who was his Boy Scout leader.   This young man noticed that in the leader's home there was a sign up on the wall, a cryptic sign.   It said "I'm third." And the Scout leader indicated that that was his life motto.   The young man asked him what he meant by that.   He said that Christ was first, others are second and I'm third.   And he felt that reminder day by day was one of the things that kept him out of a lot of trouble.

    By the way it means, I think, that we should not think more highly, nor less highly, then we ought to.  Remember Paul's emphasis in the first three chapters.   We were accepted by God into his family.   But our pride needs to be in him not in ourselves.



  2. Gentleness: The other thing he talks about here is gentleness, translated as meekness in many translations.  This is a strange thing which is mentioned eight times in the New Testament.   Gentleness or meekness is not weakness.   We often misunderstand this word.   The meaning of the word here is simply power under control.   It speaks of someone who has nothing to prove.   Moses was most humble of men.

    Yet he got angry in Exodus 32.

    Christ was gentle and humble in heart.   Matthew 11:29.

    But he got angry.

    There is a time when it is wrong not to get angry and we'll talk about that.   The word for gentleness is the Greek word the praotes.   It is a word also used of soothing medicine, or a colt that has been broken, or a soft wind.   It denotes great strength and stability, a level of strength and stability that does not lose control.   That should give you some feeling of the Greek term.



  3. Patience: That's a word we encounter often in the New Testament.   It occurs twelve times in the New Testament.   Another way for us to think about this word is that it means long tempered.   Not short tempered but long tempered --  the ability to endure discomfort without fighting back.   It is probably closely related to tolerance, the next trait.   Lovingly putting up with all that is disagreeable in other people.   Probably you've never encountered that in your life, but it applies here.   So it's just academic, but I'll pass it along anyway.   Patience is one of the things mentioned in First Corinthians 13:4 to describe love.

    And it is a fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22, that famous list:

    The New Testament is pretty clear about these traits being expected of a Christian.  That's pretty straightforward so let's keep moving:

    When you want to talk about unity let's take a look at what the Jesus prayed with his Father in the upper room.   Turn to John 17, one of the most intimate glimpses into this relationship between the Father and the Son.   In John 17 we have this incredible prayer.   I want to call your attention to verse 21 were Jesus says to the Father:

    You know we read that glibly, but that is staggering.   To the extent that we can imagine the connection between the Father in the Son, that is staggering.   You try to imagine, the Son is the Father and the Father is the Son.  That's pretty mystical, that's pretty high-level theology.   But notice what he said here. That they also, speaking of his disciples, speaking of you and me, that we also may be one as he and the Father are one.   I could ask how many really grasp that, but if anyone raised your hand I'd have to say you were naive or were untruthful.   There is no way that you can really appreciate what that means.   That is wild stuff.   That's unity.

    Speaking of unity, if you have ever attended a symphony concert, when you get there early you'll hear all of the different instruments tuning up.   It's interesting, but it sounds awful.   They're all doing their own thing, tuning up, doing scales, stuff like that.   But how different it is when the conductor comes out and raises his baton and then there's unity in all of those different instruments, those different gifts if you will.   And they take their power and their beauty and their effectiveness from the conductor.  

    Unity, by the way, is not uniformity.   Don't confuse unity with uniformity.   Unity comes from within, uniformity is imposed from without.   It is interesting that verse three starts with the word diligent.  Unity does not happen without effort.   You have to work at.   Diligent, that is being eager to maintain, to guard.   I would suggest that this relates to a relationship.   Successful relationships don't just happen.   No matter what the circumstances, it takes work to have a successful relationship.   And the body of Christ is no different.   We need to work at it.

    If you want a description of the peace that Paul is talking about, turn to James.   The Epistle of James is probably the definitive writing on the kind of peace Paul is talking about.  This is a letter written by the brother of Jesus who was head of the church in Jerusalem and was written to the council in Jerusalem.

    To paraphrase what Paul tells us:

    This admonition reminds me of the challenge:

    Paul says to live your life creating plenty of evidence for a conviction.
__________

Next week: ...we will pick up this application phase with Ephesians 4:4 and proceed to get our implementation instructions from Paul.