Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 3-4

bibleAs we continue working through the fundamentals of the Gospel as explained in the New Testament, it is our hope that you will also explore our Old Testament (OT) studies and see how the Bible truly is one complete document, the very Word of God.

Last week we started in Colossians 2. We looked at what it means to be made alive in Christ and how important it is that we not allow false teaching lead us away from Christ and His Gospel. We see Paul progressing in his letter to the church he hadn’t visited in person from the Person of Jesus and the truth of His Gospel as the central focus of the Christian Life. Brothers and sisters, there will be many false teacher majoring in the minor things of life, seeking to profit from you while getting you off-track from the central focus of Christianity… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is so much we can dive into in these last two chapters of Colossians, but for now let’s do a high-altitude flyover of the text to see how the Christian life should look. So, without further adieu, let’s continue in our study of Colossians.

Living the Christian Life

Colossians 3 (ESV)

Put On the New Self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Seek the things that are above. This utterly destroys any so-called “prosperity gospel”. Paul isn’t inventing this teaching, either… Jesus taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20)” The Truth of the Gospel is that in Christ we are over-comers… but not as the world defines over-comer with untouchable health, wealth, and prosperity… those are earthy treasures where moth and rust destroy, and thieves steal.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

This is the hard part, this is where the Law of God continues to work in us. The purpose of the Law is to convict us of sin… and the wages of sin is death. Now, Christ died as a substitutionary atonement for our sin so that we needn’t fear eternal death, Christ paid that price. However, Jesus told us that to follow him we’ll have to take up our cross (Luke 9:23-27) … we are to die to our sinful natures daily. Notice the wording of the first list “what is earthly in you”. These are the sins of the heart that we’ve inherited in our flesh, born of the seed of Adam. Sexual Immorality is a broad sin… it covers everything that isn’t within God’s design for sexual intimacy which is the union of one man and one woman for life. Any and all deviation from this design is Sexual Immorality. Homosexuality, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, rape, incest, adultery… all of it. That’s the first item… impurity, passion, and evil desire are next in the same list… lust, fantasizing of sexual immorality, pornography, emotional intimacy with someone other than your spouse… these are all bad copies/replacements for God’s love for us, how He designed us to love our spouses and how we are to love our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. And your flesh craves it all. Paul is urging/reminding his readers that we must put to death that which is sin in our flesh. We do not have the strength (or even the will) to do this apart from faith in Jesus Christ. For in Him we have forgiveness and the hope of resurrection in Christ at the last day. In Him we the genuine article… Love. The second list refers to the corruption of sin in our emotions. Anger for the wrong reasons (sinful selfishness) is a fallen version of righteous anger against sin and unrighteousness. Wrath… it’s not our place. We deserve, have earned, the wrath of God… and Jesus bore the full brunt of God’s Wrath in our stead. Slander has no place in our dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ, they are His children. Slander is pointless with the lost… for they are condemned by their unbelief and destined for destruction. They don’t need slander, they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ… they need Grace… they need Faith. There is no Greek or Jew, there are no haves and have-nots within the Church… we are all equally free in Christ for He is in all who have been Saved by Him.

But the Christian life isn’t just about “thou shalt not”. The Law has both prohibitions and commandments… and in Christ all have been fulfilled. In Christ we are made free to do the works of God. So, while we put to death the sin of our flesh, we should also seek to put on the righteousness of Christ.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The world specializing in lies. The world will tell you, that you should keep silent regarding their sin or their need for a Savior because in their eyes that’s unloving. They are lying. Some of our Christian brothers and sisters will try to tell you that rebuke for sinful living or false doctrine is unloving, that’s also a lie. Silence in the face of sin is unloving. People don’t stay silent in the face of sin for the sake of the sinner, but for their own sake. Have compassion on those who are trapped in sin, and also for the lowly and the downtrodden, and for those being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Speak and walk in kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Remember, there is forgiveness available for us when we fail (and we will fail) and if we keep that in the forefront of our mind then we should also extend forgiveness for others who have wronged us.

This is tough, and it cannot be done out of pride or effort, but only by faith in Christ. The take overall can be quite daunting and if you lose sight of the core of the Gospel, and start buying into false notions of “inner purpose” or “the champion within you” discouragement is inevitable. It’s not about you, it’s about Christ. Start small, start with your family. God instituted the family as a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

The first relationship in the family that needs to be set straight is that of husband and wives. It points to the relationship between Christ (husband) and the Church (wife). Children are to obey their parents, fathers are not to provoke their children. Here we have bonservants and masters all included in the household. What took place in the U.S. under slavery was sinful in the sight of the Lord. Don’t let anyone get away with twisting this scripture. The better picture of what this bondservant thing would look like (when done scripturally) would be like Alfred serving Bruce Wayne, or Higgens serving Magnum P.I., or Baileywick serving King Roland. If I’ve managed to miss every pop culture reference that matters to you, then I suppose it would be best to think of this proper bondservant would be a live-in nanny or house keeper. It would also be wise to extend the rules of the master-servant relationship found in the New Testament to the Employer-Employee relationships in business.

Colossians 4 (ESV)

Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Notice that this is the first time we have a direct command regarding outsiders or unbelievers. The purpose of the Church is to grow in Christ, to mature the saints. There is a lot of bad theology out there, particularly with a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Church. The purpose of the Church is to mature the saints so they can be edified and grow in the fullness of Christ. We are all called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost, but the role of the Church is to nurture the infants in the faith into men and women of God. The role of the pastor isn’t just to preach the Gospel to the lost… it’s to feed Christ’s sheep… to tend His flock. In his closing remarks, Paul names his fellow workers in Christ… the elders and pastors/teachers. Quite the list of names, because Paul wants this church to know who is faithfully working on their behalf, for the edification of the Church.

Final Greetings

Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Such great love, to take the time to write to this young church whose congregation he never met. Paul loves them, and they are also loved by several other servants of God. This is the role of the pastor/elder. This letter isn’t a long one… and yes, there is more to learn of the mystery of God… but this letter covers the essentials, the supremacy of Christ and the need to guard your doctrine and love your family and the Family of Jesus Christ. In closing, let’s turn to the Apostle Peter’s prayer in his first letter.

1 Peter 4:7-11 (ESV) 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 2

bibleAs we continue working through the fundamentals of the Gospel as explained in the New Testament, it is our hope that you will also explore our Old Testament (OT) studies and see how the Bible truly is one complete document, the very Word of God.

Last week we started in Colossians 1 and we stopped after Colossians 2:5. By way of review, we looked at some of the history of the Church an Colossae, a church that wasn’t planted by the Apostle Paul, nor had he visited them at the time of this letter to the church. This is an important detail to bear in mind when reading Paul’s letter, because of what Paul focuses on in his letter. We looked at his letter to the Ephesians in which he is summarizing the Gospel to the Elders with whom he had spent 3 years working. Paul is reminding the Elders in Ephesians all that he had taught them, but to the church in Colossae, Paul first establishes the fundamentals of the faith, the centrality and supremacy of Christ. He doesn’t rattle of a checklist of accomplishments that prove they are Christian, he simply reaffirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today we will pick up where we left off and in so doing we will look at some of the primary encouragements for Christian living that lead directly into some important warnings about false doctrines. So, without further adieu, let’s continue in our study of Colossians 2.

Doctrine is Important

Colossians 2:6-23 (ESV)

Alive in Christ

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

This is the focus of the Christian life. Not miracles, not visions, not even spiritual warfare… the focus of Christian living is being firmly rooted in Christ, being built up in Christ (in knowledge and obedience) and established in the faith as taught (the Gospel of Jesus Christ), abounding in thanksgiving to God. Everything is covered here in a concise manner. I make this comment to point out that there is no “advanced Christianity” dimension or state, we never “move on from” the faith nor do we ever have roots planted anywhere other than Christ Jesus. There will always be crafty, scheming men who will try to convince you, dear Christian, that there is something beyond the Gospel that you need to learn, study, practice, and perfect in order to achieve “the higher calling” or some kind of “special anointing”. This is falsehood. Paul hasn’t even met these folks and already he is encouraging to remain in Christ “just as you were taught”, because he knows that they were taught Jesus Christ. They don’t need anything “new” to advance in their walk, they just need to grow roots and be built up in Christ, whom they have already received, the Glory of God.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Praise the Lord. I want to interject here, if I may, to mention that we discussed these verses two weeks ago OT look at the Crossing of the Red Sea. We saw how Paul’s declaration that the cross put the rulers and authorities to open shame in much the same way that Egypt was put to shame when God destroyed Pharaoh’s army by crushing them with the waters through which Israel safely walked. I’ve also underlined four phrases in verse 8 that we will address more fully after we close out the chapter. For now, these represent four principle means by which Christians are led astray into false doctrine, making shipwreck of their faith.

Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Paul packs a lot of great instruction, warning, and encouragement in this short chapter. Now that we’ve read through the chapter, lets try to unpack this wonderful passage in a way that brings clarity to our Christian walk (being rooted and built up in Christ).

I mentioned earlier that in verse 8 Paul introduces four primary ways in which Christians are led astray into false teaching. Let’s take a look at each one.

Elemental Spirits of the World

Within this passage we see a few things listed by Paul that help us understand how Paul is using this phrase. We see he lists worship of angels and going on in detail about visions, but we also see a reference to festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths. Paul is not only talking about completely false elemental spirits, but he is including false teaching surrounding real spirits as well as applying shadows of truth over the substance of the Truth, which belongs to Christ. By the time Christ arrived in human form (by virgin birth), the world already had Aristotle and “ancient” Greek philosphy/mythology. They had false elemental spirits and false deities, all of which were unclean spirits or demons. Paul is clearly insisting that the Christian not be disqualified by caving into any idolatry.

The Jews also had festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths in the Law of Moses (or the Mosaic Covenant). These were shadows of what was coming, Jesus Christ. Paul is warning the Christian not to fall into the snare of those who would insist that in order to truly follow Christ, a Christian must keep the Law of Moses (circumcision, feasts, festivals, Sabbaths, etc). The entire Book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to the Churches of Galatia for precisely this reason, they had allowed this false doctrine to take root and divert their eyes from Christ. Paul didn’t mince any words in that letter.

Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV) | No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Seriously a wonderful book to read and to study. While the prevailing theme of the letter is a rebuke against false teaching, Paul also provides some truly wonderful teaching in that letter to the Galatians. Here, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul is encouraging the Church not to allow anyone to disqualify them regarding these festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. But notice that he said “let no one pass judgement on you in…” As foreshadows of Christ, they are simply not a factor for those who are in Christ. What do I mean? I mean that whether you choose to observe the feasts, the new moons, or even dietary restrictions, so long as you do everything to the glory and honor of Christ, there is no judgement for the observance or the abstinence from these traditions. Paul also brought up food and drink. The Law had detailed dietary rules. The world also has it’s own theories on food (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Oragnic, Vegan, etc) which stem from a godless worldview (evolution or pagan theology). Paul addresses this teaching in more detail in his letter to the Romans. Let’s take just a quick look at the start of chapter 14.

Romans 14:1-6 (ESV) |Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Notice how it ties back to Colossians 2:7, where Paul ended his summary of walking in Christ with “abounding in thanksgiving”, and that thanksgiving is to God. The passage in Romans 14 often gets overstretched (twisted out of context) to include opinions that run contrary to God’s Word, guard against that. The festivals and food rules point to Christ, therefore if we have Christ we have the fulfillment of the Law that can only be found in Him and in His work of obedience, even to death on the Cross. So, keep it in Scriptural context… Jesus declared all foods clean, and He also declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath. So, you see, we have freedom in Christ, and only in Christ, and in that freedom we are not to make judgements against our brothers and sisters in Christ regarding matters of freedom.

Human Tradition

After discussing all of the Mosaic covenant and the poor teaching of the Law of Moses, one might be tempted to think we already addressed this point. Not yet, we haven’t. You see, the Law of Moses didn’t come from men, but was given to men as a Testimony of who God Is and what He will do in His Son, Jesus. A common error in the church today, is to accuse Christians who hold tightly to the Scriptures, the Written Word of God, of being like the Pharisees. The truth is that had the Pharisees kept to the Written Word of God, and believed Moses, they would not have rejected Jesus.

John 5:45-47 (ESV) 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

The Pharisees had a separate tradition, what they called the “oral law” or “oral Torah”. They believed that there were 2 laws given to Moses, one written and one only spoken. They believed that the oral law could only be passed down orally within the Priests and Scribes of the tribe of Levi. They believed that their role as Levites was to interpret the Written Law. For example, the written Law says “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”, but the Oral Torah had all kinds of rules and regulations specifying what it meant to keep it holy, down to the distance one could walk on that day without breaking the Sabbath. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for enforcing their man-made traditions over the Written Law.

Matthew 15:1-6 (ESV) | Traditions and Commandments
15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and,‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

We, the visible Church, still struggle with this today. God forgive us for elevating our own traditions and customs to the status of Scripture. Many denominational splits are defined by differences in man’s “oral laws” taught to explain what is happening behind the Scriptures. May the Lord grant us Grace and Mercy in this regard. We also see this in churches who push a “social gospel” where the primary role of the church is somehow to “make the world a better place” even if that means preaching Law and Gospel needs to take a back seat until we’ve “earned the right” to share the Word of God. Again, may the Lord forgive us of this, and cleanse us from this unrighteousness. Are good works bad? Not at all, but they flow out from the Gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, they cannot replace the Gospel in any way.

Philosophy

Philosophy was born out of a desire to explain the inner workings of the mind, our social interactions, even religion without invoking what God has revealed about Himself and His Creation in His Word. It begins and ends in death. Philosophy began as Metaphysics. Paul engaged the Greek philosophers that the world today think they’ve rediscovered in some new way. What did Paul have to say about their philosophy?

Romans 1:18-23 (ESV) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The modern church struggles with this today, and some might argue in greater measure. The church has begun to doubt the historical accuracy of Genesis, the Creation, and whether or not the Bible is infallible. These doubts are born out of philosophy, man’s attempt to explain away God, by refusing to honor Him as God. They have become fools.  Brothers and sisters, evolution is a lie, God did NOT use evolution to create the world by “trial and error”. The flood through which God carried Noah and his family was a global flood, not a localized one. God made man and woman, and He made them that way for His purpose. We do not get to decide when He made a mistake in gender, or sexuality. It is not for us to interpret the Bible through the Philosophy of men; rather, it is by the Bible that we are to measure the philosophy of men.

A word of caution, if I may. Pay attention to how your pastor/teacher breaks down sermons into Principles or Philosophies (even this blog post). As long as the principles/philosophies are being taught from the scriptures, then there is Truth to be revealed by God the Holy Spirit. However, there is a danger when the philosophies and principles being taught draw their origins from men, their ideas or their experiences, even their dreams/visions.

Empty Deceit

Finally, what remains are the open deception of self-seeking false teachers, prophets, and christs (anointed ones). These religious con-men have always existed, and will always be a plague on the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had to deal with what he called “so-called super apostles” who had deceived many in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 11:7-15 (ESV) 7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.Their end will correspond to their deeds.

The Apostle Peter also had something to say about such false teachers.

2 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV) 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

This problem is most notably (thought not exclusively) present in the Televangelist, Faith Healer, and Megachurch scene. If ever you hear a preacher link the giving of money with the favor of God, His promises, or His blessing, run. RUN away. Should we give to the work of the ministry? Absolutely, but in the same light as performing good works, they flow from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are not a pre-requisite in any light. As servants of the Most High God, we belong to Him and are but humble stewards of His Gospel. As such, nothing we own is ours, yet He has blessed us with every good thing that is Above, with the Hope of eternal life in the resurrection of Christ. And this gift of Grace came by faith, and that faith by hearing the Word of God. Who then, dare proclaim to you a different gospel that compels you to give them money so that they can serve as your advocate to Our Heavenly Father? Only a false teacher. If you remember from our first discussion of Ephesians, Paul’s final farewell to the Elders of the Ephesians.

Acts 20:28-30 (ESV) 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Pay careful attention. If the message, the proof, and commandment all point to the individual preaching, then it is not of God. Remain in the Word of God, study, and take every thought or opinion captive, subjecting it to the Authority of the Word of God. I pray that this has been an encouragement to you. It was longer than I had anticipated, but I enjoyed this study very much.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)| Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Colossians 1

bibleWe are currently working on some “fundamentals of Christianity” (haven’t come up with a title yet) posts geared toward encouraging new or newly-learning Christians by focusing on the basics of our Faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We feel it will be a necessary feature here at Faithful Stewardship as we move more toward exercising Biblical discernment in some of the more contentious or deeply ingrained issues of the modern-day church. From time to time we will also review some church history as it pertains to present-day denominations and their effect on the Body of Christ. The plan is to move more of the Old Testament studies to Thursdays.  We will continue pointing to the Gospel in every post, we just want to really highlight it in our Wednesday posts. We are open to any questions or suggestions you may have, especially if you are a new (or renewed) Christian. We want to hear from you.

Paul Writes to a Church He Did not Plant

I have always loved Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae. In many ways, it feels more familiar in that the church at Colossae was not directly planted by Paul in his missionary journeys, so his letter to them in that sense seems all the more tangible, or connectable, to me as a Christian many centuries and miles removed from the Pauline missionary routes. Colossae was approximately 10-12 miles away from two other prosperous cities, Heiropolis and Laodecia (ref WebBible Encycolopedia).  Colossae was also about 120 miles from Ephesus. We know that Paul spent 3 years working with the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:31). If we go back a bit to Chapter 19, we see the impact of Paul’s first 2 years of preaching in Ephasus.

Acts 19:1-10 (ESV) | Paul in Ephesus

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Without getting overly involved in the history of the region. Apollos had preached well in Ephesus before Paul arrived, but needed some additional training for he had been a disciple of John the Baptist and only knew of Jesus what was prophesied. He was not aware of the Baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ, only the Baptism of repentance. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to dwell within those who believed and were baptized in His Name. We see the Apostle Paul completing the Gospel teaching of these disciples and they received the Holy Spirit, here with evidence and manifestation, but understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit is received by faith in the Promise given by Jesus Christ regardless of manifestation. Those who are baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in dwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul worked for two years preaching the Gospel to all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks. It is possible that Epaphras and Philemon were discipled around this time. If you’ve been looking through the books of the New Testament, you know that there is a short, 1-chapter letter to Philemon. We’ll look at that letter once we wrap up Colossians.

Paul’s Letter to the Colossians

Colossians 1 (ESV)

Greeting

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul, after properly introducing himself as he tends to do, immediately offers praise, thanksgiving, and prayer for the church at Colossae. We see here that Epaphras likely planted this church, and Paul is commending them by way of reminder to keep in the Grace of Jesus Christ as taught to them in Truth. Notice how quickly Paul anchors everything into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not give a checklist of their deeds, their size, nor their finances, neither does he take the approach of “well we are all Christians, Praise God” and move on to the subject of the letter. No. Paul is encouraging them in the Gospel, letting them know that they are in the prayers of the Brethren, and urging them to continue walking in Christ. Everything is anchored in Christ. This is such a primary focus that Paul will continue on this thought further narrowing down the person of Christ as the Son of God.

The Preeminence of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Here, we see Paul clearly proclaiming the deity of Christ. Might I ask that you take some time to really read what Paul is saying of Jesus here? Hollywood has done a great job of hyper-fixation on the singular “anti-christ”, but the New Testament warns of many false christs and many anti-christs in the last days (in which we live). How we view Jesus Christ is of supreme importance, for Only Jesus Christ as described in the Bible is the Way of Salvation. You cannot deviate in the person of Jesus Christ and somehow manage a True Gospel. It simply cannot be done. This is where the Mormons (Latter Day Saints) and the Jehovah’s Witness fail, though they both falsely claim to be “Christian”. This is also why any attempt to synchronize Islam and Christianity is abject heresy. While Islam has a name for Jesus (Issa), they deny the Biblical Jesus. What Paul is providing for us here is a clear starting point for discernment: Who do you say that I Am?

Paul’s Ministry to the Church

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Colossians 2:1-5 (ESV)

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

The Apostle Paul describes his ministry as a stewardship from God, given to him for the Church. The Gospel is the Lord’s. It is His testimony we preach. We who share the Word of God, are stewards of God’s Grace and mercy, preaching the Word of God so that the lost might be saved. I sometimes wonder why the chapter mark is placed so early, it seems the closing thought of Paul’s intro doesn’t truly settle until verse 5 of Chapter 2. We will stop here for today, and pick up next week on the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, that is Christian living and ministry.

But Who Do You Say That I Am?

In closing out today’s Gospel Wednesday, I want to focus on the question of who Jesus is. We mentioned it earlier, but I think it should be more fully explored. Let’s take a moment to turn to Matthew chapter 16.

Matthew 16:13-28 (ESV)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter,“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

There is no room for creativity in teaching who Jesus is. Failure to faithfully confess Christ is not the only false teaching out there, but it is (in my view) the most dangerous. They will invoke His Name falsely (blasphemy) and many will be (have been) deceived. You who have placed your faith in Christ, remain in Him, in His Word. As long as you abide in Him, the One is the Word made flesh, you will not be the one of whom Jesus prophesied:

Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) | I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Remember when we pointed out earlier, that the Apostle Paul did not praise the Colossians by running down a list of accomplishments or works; rather, he praised them for their love and faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t be so eager to build a portfolio of righteous acts, that you skip over the only thing that matters, Jesus Christ. I encourage you to spend time reading the Gospels with a singular focus of who Jesus is. We’ll pick up next week in Colossians 2:6. Until then, be blessed, be faithful, and be ready.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)| Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Ephesians 5-6

bibleWelcome back to our Gospel Wednesday series. Last week we took a look at Ephesians 4-5 where Paul addressed Unity in the Body of Christ and how we are to walk in Love. We closed in chapter 5 where Paul’s discussing of how we are to live as individuals because he is transitioning into addressing specific relationships God sets as pictures of the relationship of Christ with His Church.

Our Relationships in Christ

How we relate to one another in Christ, is modeled after how Christ relates to us.  Paul is reminding the Ephesians of the Gospel and of the Law. The Law is from God and points to God. God is the standard for godliness. I know that might seem a “given”, but we tend to make “Grace” the standard, but that isn’t quite right. Grace is the means by which we are forgiven for our ungodliness; therefore, it cannot be the standard of godliness. God is the standard, and His Law is the testimony of God’s standard of godliness. We are to extend Grace and Love to others because He first loved us, and extended grace to us. Before we get to the new portions, let’s revisit the closing portion of Ephesians 5 on individual behavior.

Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV) 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

After building his readers up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, reminding them of their place in Christ, Paul sums up how we are to walk as individual Christians, being filled with the Spirit, giving thanks always and for everything… submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. It all begins and ends with Christ. Christ frees us to serve one another in love, and we are to serve each other in love out of reverence for Christ. This is the groundwork for where Paul goes next. Now, we will start looking at specific relationships in the Christian walk, each one is indeed an expression of the Law of God, meaning that all breaking (and falling short of) these laws is sin. Paul is not just laying down the Law for these relationships in our lives, we already know that we will sin in these areas and we know where to go for forgiveness (the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Paul is also presenting these relationships, in their Lawful standard, as pictures of relationship between the Church (us) and Christ.

Ephesians 5:22-33 (ESV) | Wives and Husbands
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 6:1-9 (ESV) | Children and Parents
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Bondservants and Masters
5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Paul’s primary focus here is to highlight the focus of the Christian walk, conduct of the Church, in light of the Biblical standard for these earthly relationships.  In his letters to the Corinthians, to Timothy, and Titus, Paul actually takes time to provide instruction for these areas of life. The Ephesians are being reminded of these standards in light of our relationship with Christ. Any attempt to turn these passages into legitimized harsh earthly rule or lordship over women, children, slaves, or employees is to utterly and completely fail at understanding this text. Such a reading turns the text into swiss cheese, completely skipping over the standard of leadership as service to God. Husbands, you are expected to lay down your life for your wife as Christ did for His Church. That is the standard of the Law. If not for the Grace of God, you stand guilty of failing to love your wife. We will spend the rest of our lives growing in this area, both in the earthly covenant of Marriage to our wives and in the eternal covenant of adoption into Heaven by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Bondservants and Masters isn’t limited to slavery; rather, it covers all levels of authority. Government, business, and staff members. All of it is covered. And everyone has One Master in Heaven… and there is no partiality with Him.

Closing Instructions

Now that the aside is wrapped up, and we’ve been reminded of the Law (Love God, Love Others), Paul returns to the message of the Gospel. He does so, however, in a very interesting way. This passage is often taught as a commandment, or as a Law; however, I don’t think that is the best reading of this passage. It is less about “doing” something and more about “resting” in someone.

Ephesians 6:10-24 (ESV) | The Whole Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

We’ll explore these in greater detail later, but for now I want to highlight that none of this armor or preparedness comes from within us. This doesn’t get “put on” by our efforts. The only Truth in all of Creation is God and His Word. We are not born with faith, it comes only by Hearing the Word of God; therefore, our shield of faith comes by hearing the Words of Christ (Romans 10:14-17). Faith is a gift from God (we saw that in Ephesians 2:8-9). The breastplate of righteousness is NOT our righteousness. It’s not a reference to your good works. Your good works are not the means by which you stand against evil; rather, it is the righteousness of Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22). As for the gospel of peace… peace with whom? It is NOT with the world. The Gospel is not about making peace with the world, it is about making peace with God, a peace purchased by Christ’s atoning sacrificial work on the cross. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He is the Passover Lamb, who bore the full penalty of our sin on our behalf, so that in Him we can be made right with God. Peace with God can only be made by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and by no other means. Our salvation being a helmet, a seal on our foreheads set by the Holy Spirit. We stand not by our own strength, but in the strength of God’s might. That is the Gospel, that is the Good News… that Christ has won the victory, paid the price, and He is returning to take us all home.

Ephesians 6:21-24 (ESV) | Final Greetings
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

In his final greetings, Paul is letting them know that Tychicus will speak on his behalf to encourage the Ephesians. This closing is worth highlight, too… an encouragement to love with faith from God the Father. God is so good.  In closing, let us revisit Paul’s written prayer in Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,

Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Ephesians 4-5

bibleWelcome back to our Gospel Wednesday series. Last week we took a look at Ephesians 1-3 and we learned about the context of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus.  While Paul does a wonderful job of summarizing the Gospel to the elders, he does so by way of reminder of what he had already spent 3 years teaching them in person. Chapter 3 closes with a wonderful prayer, but Paul is not yet finished with his letter, so today we will continue reading in Chapter 4.

Unity in the Body of Christ

There are a lot of books and conferences on how Christians are supposed to live their lives now that they have been Saved from their just punishment of hell. Some good, and some not very good at all. Before jumping into one of those guides or studies, let’s see what the Word of God emphasizes for His Body, the Church. First and foremost, as a born-again believer, you’ve been brought into the Body of Christ, His body. While it may have taken place in a specific church congregation, your place in the Body of Christ is much bigger than the 4 walls and local leadership of your church. When we talk about Unity here, don’t limit your understanding to just your local membership to a congregation; rather, understand that our Unity is in Christ and His Word (Law and Gospel). We assemble with the brethren for the building up of the Body of Christ, to the maturing of the Saints. Unity in Christ isn’t defined by your local body of elders, nor by your church covenants, it is defined by the Word of God, for Christ is the Head of His Church.

Ephesians 4 (ESV)| Unity in the Body of Christ

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

When we think about our modern-day church, it might seem difficult to fathom verse 5, that there is One Lord, One faith, and One baptism. When we focus in on our denomination, how lovingly are those of a different denomination portrayed? One Faith. Yes, there are a lot of major differences between Pentecostalism and Reformed, but they can’t both be completely right because there is only One Faith. The One Faith comes from the One Spirit (verse 4) and everything we know of God is by His Word. There is the ultimate standard of Truth, the Word of God. However, unity in the Body of Christ demands that we speak to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ with ALL humility, gentleness, patience and love. We have no right to vilify our brothers who do not agree with us. There is a difference between having a different understanding and holding to False Doctrine. Scripture exposes false doctrine, and we are never to accept or tolerate false doctrine, nor are we to allow any doctrines of men to rise to the level of Scripture.

Once we have been born again, made alive in Christ by grace, through faith granted as a gift from God by His Word, we need to grow in Christ so that we will no longer be children, easily mislead. Such growth isn’t a mystical endeavor filled with “spiritual trial and error”, it is a very real study and understanding of God’s Word, learning from the teachers and shepherds of the flock and studying the works of the Apostles and Prophets as recorded in Scripture.

Ephesians 4:17-32 (ESV) | The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do,in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Our conduct should be an outward expression of our faith in Jesus Christ. For just as He has called us out of the world, and made the way for such by His Blood, by faith we are to walk in the Spirit of God rather than by our sinful flesh. If this thought worries you, remember the cross. We do not earn forgiveness, nor do we earn salvation, nor are we sanctified by our own works. To put off your old-self will be a daily, lifelong pursuit as long as we continue in this fallen flesh. No matter how much you grow in Christ, you will not outgrow the need to repent and be forgiven until the Day of Christ’s Return, when death will finally be defeated and we will all will be given new bodies, free from sin and the curse of death. We must always bear the fruit of repentance, and know that in Christ (and ONLY in Christ) there is the forgiveness of sin.

The putting on of the new self is done bit by bit, and not perfectly as long as we live here in this fallen world. As you learn the Scriptures, the Testimony of the Goodness of God, the Holy Spirit will give you understanding. Paul is echoing some of the basics as a reminder, put away falsehood by speaking the truth (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor), let the thief no longer steal, but let him work honestly (You shall not steal), don’t sin in your anger (emotion) and settle the matter (particularly your anger) that same day, so the devil doesn’t have an opportunity to tempt you to bitterness and murder. Paul isn’t just giving a brand new list of commandments for Christians to obey in order to be righteous. None of these qualities are new to the Scriptures, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ means that the wrath of God (the righteous and just punishment for falling short of the Law) has already been poured out onto Jesus Christ in our place. In Him we are forgiven already, and by Him we are made free to walk in His Ways. Let’s explore this further in the next chapter.

Ephesians 5 (ESV) | Walk in Love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Notice here that the Law is still the Law. The Law still identifies sin, and our flesh still desires sin. Sin still brings death (for we know we still face a physical death and after that judgement) under the Law. Our freedom from the Law is in Christ and as such cannot be separated from Christ. Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly and then laid down His life anyway taking the full punishment for our sake. We are vulnerable when we sin, and we dare not continue in sin for fear of making shipwreck of our faith. Expose sin, and don’t take part in it. This is particularly tough considering our flesh and its addiction to corruption. Immature Christians often invoke the devil as the root of their sin, but in truth they are simply obeying the cravings of the flesh rather than casting it off. I think it is helpful to think about alcohol, nicotine, or even caffeine addiction. The body craves these chemicals it has grown to love and will fight to convince you its a good idea, that it’s what you really want. The flesh does this to us with all sin. We don’t all have the exact same failings, but we are all the same in that we have all failed. Therefore, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to look after each other, in love, being ever mindful that none of us is made righteous by our own actions or endeavors, but by the Grace of God.

Next week, we’ll close out Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as he breaks down key relationships and their application to the Christian walk. Each of these are important and central to the Kingdom of Heaven so I’m excited to dive into them next week. For now, let us focus on how we are living our lives hour-by-hour and day-by-day. All men and women are sinful, the question is whether or not you remain repentant of your sin and ask God for forgiveness. The focus must be on the Cross, for had He not laid down His life for us, forgiveness would not be available to us. But because Christ came and died and rose again, we who believe in Him have everlasting life. In Christ, we have no right to attack our brothers and sisters, to speak falsely to our neighbor, nor to sin against them… we who are in Christ should treat others in a manner that is in keeping with our faith in Jesus Christ. As our Faith grows (by hearing the words of Christ) our walk will improve as an extension of our faith, and so we will grow in the Unity of the Body of Christ.

1 John 1 (ESV) | The Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In closing, let us revisit Paul’s written prayer in Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,

Jorge