Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Ephesians | Session 19 | 4:11

Today we find ourselves in Ephesians 4:11 where Paul is talking about the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Five-Fold Ministry Gifts
Verse 11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  These are some of the gifts that were given unto men. Some are quick to point out that these are not gifts, but positions that were given to administer the gifts. By definition, apostles laid the foundation, prophets foretold and forthtold, evangelists had the gift of evangelism, pastors oversaw a flock, and teachers taught the Word. 

The question is, "Who were these people?" Is he referring to the apostles and prophets of the Old Testament? To answer this, we need to remember what we studied in Ephesians 2:19-20 where it says, Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  Like I said earlier, this is either saying that the church was built upon the foundation that was laid by the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of the Twelve like most in the church believe or it means that the church was built upon the foundation of some other prophets and apostles.

Well Ephesians 3:1-5 says clearly that the Old Testament prophets and apostles did not know what Paul knew regarding the mystery. So, how could the church, the Body of Christ, be built on them? Paul also mentioned these guys in 1 Corinthians 12:28 when he said, And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. If they are truly indeed not the same, who were these prophets and apostles that Paul was talking about? Whoever they were, it would seem they were the same ones he was speaking of here in Ephesians 4:11. 

Apostles just means sent ones and they are mentioned in Ephesians 2:20 and Ephesians 3:5. Prophets are seen throughout the early church (Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1Corinthians 14:29-32). Again, it would seem that he could not be speaking about Old Testament prophets and apostles. If indeed not, these were some new type of grace apostles and prophets, who according to the verse 13 were appointed until we all come to the unity of faith

So, the next question is are they still around today? I am of the mind at the moment that these offices were discontinued after the completion of the Paulene epistles which is what Paul was referring to when he said until we all come to the unity of the faith in verse 13. One writer says regarding this, "Jesus gave gifts for a while unto the Body of Christ during its infancy to take it to full maturity. When the word of God was completed then that which was in part were done away with just like he said in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13." 

He is referring to what Paul wrote when he said to the Corinthians that Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 

His point about that which is perfect, which has always been controversial, is that when it does come, the gifts would be done away with because they will no longer be needed. I've heard that it is a reference to the Second Coming. Of course, when Jesus comes those positions or offices will no longer by needed. I have heard that it is a reference to the eternal state and, of course, at that time they will not be needed either. And I have heard that it is a reference to the completion of the Scriptures. Of course, while the first two are still yet future. we already have the Scriptures. The word perfect actually means having reached its end or complete. It is the Greek word teleios

With that said, that can't be referring to the actual canonization of Scripture which happened between AD 393 and AD 397at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. That was merely when the twenty-seven books of our New Testament were deemed authoritative by the church. Instead, the completion of Scripture occurred when the last Paulene letter was penned by the apostle in AD 66-67. That would have been 2 Timothy. Of course, most say that the Epistles of John and Revelation were the last to be written. I disagree with a late date for those books due to their purpose and content. They had to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. That is another study for another day.   

Back to these ministry gifts, there is disagreement all around. Some contend that all of them ceased because Paul says that the only positions in the church are elders and deacons in Timothy and Titus. They also point to the word gave as past tense and therefore transitory. 2. Some contend that only the first two ceased because once the entire revelation was completed, there was no longer any need for the apostles and prophets.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Ephesians | Session 18 | 4:8-10

In our study today from Ephesians 4:8-10, we take a closer look at a passage that is oftentimes misunderstood. We are reminded that context is key to the true interpretation of any passage of Scripture.
Captivity Captive
Verse 8: Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  Paul now quotes from Psalms 68:18. Remember that the context is the gifts that he just spoke of in the previous verses. As such, whatever he is quoting is to make his point about said gifts. 

The context of the psalm is in the future when when Christ will reign after taking back what belongs to him. The phrase led captivity captive in these verses speak of him triumphing over his enemies by the resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-22). Paul is drawing from the Roman Triumph which was a celebration of the success of a military commander. On the day of his triumph, the successful general would wear a crown of laurel and an all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta ("painted" toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly. In some accounts, his face was painted red, perhaps in imitation of Rome's highest and most powerful god, Jupiter. The general rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives, and the spoils of his war and at Jupiter's temple on the Capitoline Hill, he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god Jupiter. The order of the procession would be the captive leaders, their allies, and soldiers (and sometimes their families) usually walking in chains; some were destined for execution or slavery. All this was done to the accompaniment of music, clouds of incense, and the strewing of flowers. This is most likely what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. 

Others have pointed out that Paul did not quote the passage precisely. The Psalmist actually said thou hast received gifts for men while Paul said and gave gifts unto men. So one says received while the other gave. He could be saying that what Christ received, he was now giving, i.e., grace gifts (verse 7, 11). Again, the point and the context is gifts. 

Now, for years, I have taught that those captives being referred to were those who were in paradise who had died before the resurrection. Not so sure about that view now. He seems to be referring to his enemies instead. 

Lower Parts of the Earth
Verses 9-10: (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)  It must be noted that these verses are parenthetical. That means that verse 8 runs directly into verse 11. This verse simply speaks of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Unlike what the apostles creed says, Jesus did not descend into Hell, but Sheol; the place of the dead (Luke 16:19-31). Hell is where men go after the judgment, the Lake of Fire, and that has not happened yet, therefore, it was empty then and it is empty now. The first to be thrown into hell will be the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Revelation 19:20) and then the devil himself (Revelation 20:10).

Friday, May 19, 2023

Ephesians | Session 17 | 3:20-4:7

In our study today from Ephesians 3:20-4:7 we see Paul giving a doxology at the end of chapter 2, inviting us to walk deserving of our calling, describing how and why, and assuring us that God has given us everything we need to do it.

Exceeding Abundantly 
Verses 20-21: Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. This is a doxology which is defined as a spontaneous exclamation of praise. Apparently, Paul got a little beside himself as some would say. It is interesting that the words exceeding abundantly is one word in the original and only used by Paul. It literally means to an extent which cannot be expressed. 

Chapter 4 
Prisoner of the Lord 
Verse 1: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, Just as in Paul's other epistles, he transitions from the doctrinal to the practical with the word therefore (Romans 12:1; Colossians 3:5). In other words, now that you know the mystery, the manifold wisdom of God, this is how you should live. 

The word beseech means to call or invite. The word worthy is axios which means to deserving or due reward. The word vocation speaks more of a calling than a career as it is commonly used today. Paul also uses the word therefore a lot to express in lieu of all that I have previously stated. 

Unity of the Spirit 
Verses 2-3: With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  In these verses he goes on to tell them five things regarding walking worthy. It is to be done in: 1. lowliness (humility); 2. meekness (gentleness);  3. longsuffering (patience); 4. forbearing (self-control or refraining); and 4. endeavoring (concerted effort). And he concludes that it is possible because of the common love and the bond of peace that we share. The word bond speaks of a uniting principle. 

One Body and One Spirit 
Verses 4-6: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  In these verses he goes on to tell them seven reasons why they should walk worthy. These include because there is only one body, and one Spirit (2:18, 22); one hope of your calling (rapture/return, Titus 2:13, the point is that it should be unifying); one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Galatians 2:16); one God and Father who is above, through, and in you all. In other words, we are in this thing together. There is no second body, Spirit, calling, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father. Any faults in the church today is man's fault and not God's. 

Given Grace 
Verse 7: But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  The point is that God has given every believer his favor for each of us to live as we ought to and to walk worthy (verse 1). Does this mean that he has given more to some than to others? I believe that he is simply saying that every one of us have been given enough grace to fulfill God's purposes and callings in our lives (Romans 12:3; John 1:16). 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Dual Natured Kingdom

There is a teaching in the church today that is called the Dual Natured Kingdom. It is the Kingdom that Jesus spoke of is here spiritually, but not yet physically. In other words, the church has the spiritual realities of the promises Kingdom that was given at Pentecost, but not yet the physical. Some refer to it as "almost, not yet". 

The results of this faulty teaching are pretty obvious according to Dr. Randy White. They include:

1. The Bible speaks only of an earthly, physical, and fraternal Kingdom.   

2. This teaching fails to distinguish the Body of Christ from the Kingdom leaving the two to be conflated.  

3. This teaching requires that the realities of the "spiritual" Kingdom be experienced today, i.e., authority, dominion, miracles, etc. 

4. The biproduct of this teaching is the ecumenical social justice movement that is now prevalent in most mainstream denominational churches.

5. The Roman Catholic Church was the first to embrace this teaching and must stand on it or they would cease to exist. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Ephesians | Session 16 | 3:14-19

In our study today from Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul offers a prayer for strength in the inner man, that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith, that they might be rooted and grounded in love, understanding, and the love of Christ.
Verses 14-15: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, For this cause implies that since Paul now knows the manifold wisdom of God (verse 10) and his eternal purpose (verse 11) now, he bows his knees in prayer to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named and asks the following in verses 16-19. Guzik points out that our prayers are much more effective when we know what we are praying for according to the purpose and will of God. 

On a side note, the Bible has enough prayer not on the knees to show us that it isn’t required, but it also has enough prayer on the knees to show us that it is a good thing as well. 

The Inner Man 
Verse 16: That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;  His prayer is that they might be strengthened with might, but according to the riches of his glory in the inner man by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 16:13). So, his desire is that they are continually strengthened abundantly according the working of the Holy Spirit in the inner man (Romans 7:22; 2Corinthians 4:16). 

The inner man is said to be the heart, mind, and soul, as compared to the outer man. Just as the outer man needs to be cared for, so does the inner. Albert Barnes said, "the inner man needs a constant supply of grace. Every Christian needs grace given each day to enable him to bear trials, to resist temptation, to discharge his duty, to live a life of faith." I believe this requires action on our part as that it does not come naturally, i.e., Galatians 5:16. 

Illustration: An old Indian Chief, of an American Indian tribe, had just come to a new faith in Jesus, because of the regular visits to his tribe by an early American preacher. As the preacher continued to make his visits to the tribe, he continued to instruct the Chief in the workings of his new faith. One day, as the preacher came to visit, he asked the new Believer, "Well, Chief, how's it going?" The Chief replied,.. "... Two Dogs inside, a Small Dog & a Big Dog, always fighting." So, the preacher asked, "Well, which dog is winning?" To which the Chief replied,.. "The one that I feed." Again, we choose which dog we feed every day. 

Dwell in Their Hearts by Faith 
Verse 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,  This is a continuous thought from verse 16 implying that if you they did verse 16, Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith and they would be rooted and grounded in love, and be able to... 

Verse 18-19: May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  In other words, it is only then that they would be able to understand (comprehend) with all the saints the breadth, length, depth, and height of the love of Christ. Of course, none of us can attain to that in this life, but it is no reason not to try. After all, it is necessary if we would ever desire to be filled with the fulness of God. That means to be filled to capacity with Jesus. Who wouldn't want that? Well, it doesn't come by osmosis!

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Ephesians | Session 15 | 3:9-13

In our study today from Ephesians 3:9-13, we see Paul stating that his purpose in life was to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery to the extent that even the principalities and powers in heavenly places would know, the phrase faith of him, and his desire that they should not not feel sorry for him, but realize that everything that he was going through was actually for them.
Verse 9: And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:  Interestingly, translations differ regarding the translation of the fellowship of the mystery. The English Standard Version translates it plan of the mystery. The New American Standard translates it administration of the mystery. The Revised Version translates it dispensation of the mystery

Paul's ministry statement here is twofold. To share the gospel of grace with was committed to his trust. And, to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery concerning Jew and Gentile in one new man (the Body of Christ), which had been hid in God from the beginning. One commentator said that the mystery was hidden from Satan so that he would go through with the crucifixion. In other words, if he had known the mystery that lay on the other side, the salvation of the Gentiles, he would not have pushed for it (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). 

Verse 10: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,  Now everyone knows the manifold wisdom of God regarding Jew and Gentile. Now even the principalities and powers in heavenly places know. Some commentators infer that this is speaking about earthly rulers and powers, however, it clearly says that these are in heavenly places. He will talk about these again in Ephesians 6:12. He is saying that now, even the heavenly realm knows. Again, I reference 1 Corinthians 2:6-8. I am reminded of what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:10-12. 

F.F. Bruce said, "The accomplishment of this eternal purpose of God’s has not in view only those who enter into the good of it on this earth. The triumph of his grace in overcoming an otherwise insurmountable barrier and uniting the two sections of mankind in Christ holds instruction for the inhabitants of the celestial realms." He also mentioned 1 Corinthians 11:10 as a proof text. 

The manifold wisdom of God has the idea of intricacy, complexity, or great beauty. 

Verse 11: According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:  The dispensation of grace has always been in God's eternal purpose. That doesn't mean that God overruled man's will, but that he knew. Again, the message of the Twelve was always known, but the message of Paul was unique, but in God's eternal purpose. 

Verse 12: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Notice the boldness and access that we now have is the result of the faith of him. It is our faith in his faith that brings about salvation (Philippians 3:9; Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:20) If it were not for his faith, ours would not matter. Sadly, other translations totally miss this. ESV our faith in him (cf. above verses) NIV through faith in him NAS through faith in him Believe or not the NET gets it right when it accurately translates because of Christ's faithfulness. 

Verse 13: Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.  This is a reference back to verse 1. In other words, he is saying, "Do not feel sorry for me." The verse literally means, don't faint, or be discouraged by my trials for you, because they are to your glory. In other words, all that he went through was for them. He said something similar to the Colossians in Colossians 1:24.

Ephesians | Session 14 | 3:6-8

In our study today in Ephesians 3:6-8, Paul continues his explanation that believing Gentiles and Jews are now in the same body and partakers of the same promise, and he expresses his gratitude that God still chose to use him who was formerly a blasphemer to preach it.

Verse 6: That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: This is the mystery! Jew and Gentile in one body. No where in the Bible was this event foretold, i.e., Hebrew Scriptures. This But Now (Ephesians 2:13) period in which we live was never spoken of until Paul. 

Verses 7-8: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; Paul's point is that his ministry to the Gentiles with the mystery was the result of the gift of the grace of God that was given to him by the effectual working of his power

I believe that gift of the grace of God was his salvation while some would say that it was the actual grace gospel that he is referring to. I do know that Paul was a blasphemer and that according to Matthew 12:31 his only way of salvation would have had to have been grace. 
I also believe that he was indeed the first (1Timothy 1:11-16). 

What does he mean that he is the least of all saints? I believe that he makes this statement because of the persecution that he inflicted on the kingdom church (1 Timothy 1:11-16) and the fact that God would still choose to use him to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Again, I believe that he is referring to the mystery, that until revealed only to him, and thus, unsearchable (Colossians 1:26-27).