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PAULS CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH
Intro: The fourth chapter of Ephesians introduces a change of direction for the book. The word therefore in verse 1, signals this change. Paul is saying, because of what I have said, this is what I want you to do.
To me, the first there chapters of this book are among the most thrilling and most profound in the Bible. Over the course of just 66 chapters, Paul lays out a wonderful catalogue of divine truth. I do not want to re-preach the verses we have a already studied, but I do want to refresh your minds briefly about the glorious truths we have already studied.
In the first three chapters of this book, Pauls focus has been on doctrine. He has been telling us about the doctrinal truths we believe. He has also been teaching us about our positional standing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Allow me to run through a brief overview of the great truths we have already encountered in this book.
Everything I just mentioned, and more, makes up the contend of the first three chapters of this book.
In summary, paul focuses in on three great truths in the first three chapters.
All of these great truths teach us about who we are in Jesus, and about all that the Lord has given to us through His grace. Now, Pauls thinking takes a shift.
When Paul uses the word therefore, he is reminding us about everything he has already written, and he is telling us that everything he has already written calls for a certain response. Pauls shift is from doctrine to duty. His shift is from positional truth to practical truth. His shift is from what we believe to how we are to behave. Paul moves from exposition to exhortation. He moves from principle to practice. Having told us about who we are and what we are supposed to believe, Paul now tells us how we are supposed to act.
By the way, this is a pattern Paul uses several times in the New Testament. The first eleven chapters of Romans are doctrinal in nature. Then, in Romans 12:1, he says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. The same pattern presents itself in Gal. 5:1; Phil. 2:1-2; Col. 3:5; and 1 Thes. 4:1.
Paul knows what many people have forgotten: duty arises out of doctrine! How we behave in life will always be determined by what we believe to be true. Our practice will always be dictated by the precepts we hold to be true. In others words, if we are going to behave right, we must believe right.
Right doctrine is essential for proper living! Until we come to a place where we correctly understand the doctrines taught in the Bible, we will not live lives that are pleasing to the Lord. As long as there are holes in our doctrine, we will be derelict in our duty to serve the Lord.
So, Paul turns from teaching us doctrine to teaching us about our duty as believers. He wants us to know that who we are should have an impact on what we are. He wants us to know that what we believe about God should determine how we behave before God.
As we begin our study of the second part of Ephesians, I want to draw your attention to Pauls Challenge To The Church. There are a few aspects of this challenge that speak to us about our daily walk. Notice with me Pauls Challenge To The Church.
I. THIS CHALLENGE IS PERSONAL
Paul says, I beseech you When Paul uses the word you, it reminds us that he is speaking tot he individual. While this book was written to the church in Ephesus nearly 2,000 years ago, it might as well have been delivered to each person in this room today. So, keep in mind that all the things we will study today, and all the way to the end of the book, were not written just to saints living two millennia ago, they are written to us! They are written to us to challenge us to reach our fullest potential in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word beseech is filled with meaning. It means, to call to ones side, to summon; to exhort, to entreat, to comfort; to encourage and strengthen by consolation; to instruct, to teach. Paul is saying, I come alongside you to strengthen you through instruction; to encourage you to walk in the right path; to comfort you, to lead you, to be your friend.
The word beseech is from the same word that is translated Comforter in four times in Johns Gospel. John 14:16-18 says, 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is that of being our Comforter. He comes alongside the saints of God like a trusted Friend to offer encouragement, guidance, consolation, instruction, teaching, comfort, exhortation, among others things. He performs this ministry in an effort to help us to grow in the Lord. He does it to make us more like Jesus Christ. He does it to challenge us to reach our fullest potential in the Lord. If you are saved, you have experienced and benefited from this personal and powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit. By the ay, this ought to encourage us! Like Jesus said in John 14:18, I will not leave you comfortless (as orphans): I will come to you.
We are not in this world alone! We have the Holy Spirit to help us become all the Lord saved us to be. He is in us, John 14:17, and He will never leave us, John 14:16. That is one way the Lord Jesus keeps His promise to His people in Heb. 13:5, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, and Matt. 28:20, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
But, this isnt the Spirit of God who offers comfort, consolation, encouragement and strength, it is Paul, one of the saints. This highlights an important truth. While we have the Spirit of God Who fulfills the role of Comforter in our lives, we have an obligation to one another to come alongside one another to help one another reach our fullest potential in Christ.
A true friend will reach out in love:
A true friend is someone like Paul. A true friend is someone who refuses to allow you to live a substandard life. A true friend is someone who helps you become more like Jesus by coming alongside you to exhort, to entreat, to comfort; to encourage and strengthen by consolation; to instruct, to teach.
So, the challenge Paul issues is a personal challenge. It is as if a trusted friend had walked up to them, placed his arm around their shoulders and said, Listen, I want to tell you about everything God has given to you in Jesus Christ, and I want to help you live up to your true potential in Jesus. I am here to help. I am here to guide you. I am here to teach you. You can count on me. I am your friend.
What a comfort that we have such a friend in the Holy Spirit. What a blessing it is when you have that kind of friends in your life. What a testimony it is when you are that kind of friend to someone else!
I. This Challenge Is Personal
II. THIS CHALLENGE IS POWERFUL
While this challenge is personal, it also powerful. Paul says, I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you Paul reminds them that he is a prisoner in Rome. But, he wants them to know that he is not the prisoner of Rome. He wants them to know that He is the prisoner of the Lord. There is a vast difference!
Paul was not held captive by bars or iron. He was held captive by the bonds of love. He was the prisoner of Christ. This is what Paul said in Eph. 3:1. The word prisoner refers to one held in bonds.
Paul wants his readers to know that while he might be locked up in a Roman jail, he was really in the custody of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul became a Christian, he became the property of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was up to the Lord to use Paul as He saw fit. God did use Paul. He send 14 books of the New Testament through his pen. Most of them written, by the way, while Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel. God used Paul to found churches in many of the major cities of the day. God used Paul in great ways in spite of the fact that he spent much of his time in prison. Rome may have held the key to Pauls cell, but God controlled the length of Pauls chains!
Paul does not identify himself as a prisoner to gain their sympathy. He is not trying to stir up some emotional response. He is saying, Consider the source of this challenge! I am not asking you to do anything that I am not already doing. I am not asking you to believe something that I dont already believe. He is saying Look at me! These are the doctrines I believe, and they have determined the very course of my life. He is not calling attention to chains of Caesar; he is calling attention to the chains of Christ!
Paul was imprisoned by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he never sought to be free of the Lords incarceration. Because Paul was captive to the Lord Jesus Christ, he had no will of his own. He had no rights of his own. He had no plans of his own. He saw everything through the eyes of the Lord Jesus. Paul was held in such divine captivity that every thought, every plan, every deed, every word written or spoken, and every other thing Paul did was carried according to the will of the One Who held Paul captive. He did all that he did to the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10:31.
Paul is telling simply teaching us that he is living out the very life he is challenging us to live. The fact that Paul is living this kind of life, even while he is the prisoner of Rome, gives weight and power to this challenge. This challenge also carries weight because of who makes it. This is no trifling hypocrite, who calls people to live one way while he lives another. No, this is the holy Apostle who calls people to live like Christ, a life that he is already living.
By the way, before we challenge others to live a certain way, we need to be sure that our life matches our exhortation. Holy words carry heavenly weight, but the words of a hypocrite are nothing but empty words; as empty as a hermits address book
I. This Challenge Is Personal
II. This Challenge Is Powerful
III. THIS CHALLENGE IS PRACTICAL
Pauls challenge is simple. He says, that we walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.
The word walk means, to walk around. It refers to how a person regulates his or her life. Simply stated, it speaks of our conduct, or how we live day to day. By the way, that world walk is going to figure heavily throughout the remainder of this book.
Paul tells us that we are to walk worthy. The word worthy is an interesting word. It means, to balance the scales. The literal meaning is, to bring up the other arm of the scales. It has the idea of adding something of equal value.
The word vocation refers to a calling, an invitation. It speaks primarily of our divine invitation to embrace Gods free offer of salvation through Christ.
So, Paul says that we are live our lives in such a way that we balance the scales by adding something of equal value with what we have been given in Jesus.
What have we been given in Jesus Christ? That is what Paul has been talking about in Ephesians 1:1-3:21. Let me remind you one more time!
All of that is doctrine! All of that tells us who we are and what we have in Jesus. When God gave us all that, and more, He placed it on one side of the scale. Since we are saved and know this doctrine, we now have a duty. It is our duty to balance the scales. How do we do that? We do it by yielding to the Word of God and living lives that reflect the truths of the doctrine we have been taught.
We will talk more about it in the coming weeks, but for now, let me point you to Phil. 1:27, which says, Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. We are called on to live lives that look good on the gospel. We are called to live lives that reflect the changes God made in us when He saved us. We are called on to be different, 2 Cor. 5:17; to be holy, 1 Pet. 1:16; to be like Jesus Christ, 1 John 2:6.
Pauls challenge is very practical. He is simply saying, God has tipped the scales with His blessings. You are in tremendous debt to Him for all that He has done for you. Now that He has called you to Jesus and saved you by His grace, do everything in your power to live in such a way that you balance the scales.
We know we can never pay the Lord back for all that He has done for us and all that He has given us in Jesus Christ. Thankfully, He does not ask us to. All He asks us to do is to live lives that are consistent with Who He is, what He has done for us, and what He has given to us in Jesus Christ.
Conc: I admit this intimidates me. When I stop to think about all that I have in the Lord Jesus, and I have only scratched the surface today, I realize that I am terribly behind loving Him and living for Him like I should. But, I have a duty to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith I am called. I have a duty to try and balance the scales! I have a duty to live in the light doctrine. I have a duty to see that my practice matches His principles. I have a duty to ensure that my behavior matches up with what I claim to believe. That is my duty as a believer, and that is our duty as a church!
Consider, as we close, Heb. 11. In that great chapter we are introduced to many of the great heroes and heroines of the faith. People like Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab and many others. But, if you will notice Heb. 11:32-38. In verse 38, God says that the world was not worthy of them. Its the same word my friends!
These saints had their eyes on the Lord, His will and the ultimate goal of Heaven. They did not walk with their eyes on the world. And, just as they did not deserve the things they endured, the world did not deserve to have these saints in its midst!
God is telling us that when our duty lines up with His doctrine; when our practice lines up with His principles; when our walk lines up with His Word, the world is not worthy of us. In other words, through holy, godly lives, believers place so much on the arm of the scale in Gods favor that the world is forever indebted to them for revealing, for living, and for proclaiming the truth about God.
Pauls challenge to the church is that we consider our lives in light of all we have been given in Jesus Christ. His challenge is that we do everything in our power to balance the scales. His challenge is that we live these kinds of lives so that God might be glorified and that the world might see the evidence of Gods saving grace and of faith in His Word.
How does your life measure up to Pauls challenge?