Friday, October 21, 2016

Children, obey - Ephesians 6:1-4

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4)
Paul has finished given instructions to the husband and wife, now he turns his attention to the children. It is interesting that Paul feels free to talk directly to the children rather than telling parents what they should communicate to their children. This is because, even as children, we have our own relationships with God. Our relationship with God is not filtered by, or intermediated by, our parents, rather we relate directly to God in both our prayers, worship, and obedience. As such, God asks us to choose, as free moral agents, to honor, respect, and obey the parents that God has given us. It was God who created us in the womb and it was God who determined who our parents would be and, as such, He asks us, in an act of obedience to Him, to honor and obey them.

When Paul uses the phrase, "in the Lord", he is not saying that we should only obey our parents if they too are in the Lord, but that our obedience and honor for our parents should flow as a natural result of our relationship with God. It is only when we are in right relationship with God that we can properly understand and respond to His commandments to honor and obey our parents, even if they themselves are not in the Lord. I knew a woman whose parents were harsh and fought against her relationship with Christ, yet she found solace in testimony of apostles who rejoices because, "they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) It was her relationship with Christ that gave her the grace and strength to love, honor, and obey her parents who were less than charitable to the things of the Kingdom.

We are living in a time when there is an all-out assault on the traditional family of a husband, wife, and children. We are told that families comes in all stripes and flavors and that no one sort of family is to be preferred over another. We are also seeing the in-reach of government into the family in ways that diminish the role and authority of the parents over their families. Young girls, who cannot take an aspirin in school without a parent's notes, can get an abortion without their parents ever having to know. Laws have even made it illegal for public libraries to disclose to parents what kinds of books their children are checking out of a library. Public figures are telling us that it takes a village to raise a child when God designed it to be a family that raises a child. When government and other cultural forces work to erode the bond between parent and child, a structure that God created in His own wisdom and purpose, then our culture begins to unravel and our nation rushes forward in decline.  The key to a strong and lasting culture and society is the relationship between parents and children and the strength of the traditional families. So important is this intra-family dynamic that before the final coming of Christ God has promised to, "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:6)

Honoring our father and mother not only ensures the longevity of our society, but it also promotes our own prosperity in our lives. The Greek term for "obey" means more than simple blind obedience. It has the idea of listening to and heading, not only their commands, but also their teaching and wisdom. This is more than just obeying their rules but also conforming our lives to the lessons and principals we have learned from them. There is wisdom in learning from an older generation. Solomon writes, "Hear, my son, your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck." (Proverbs 1:8-9) Living long on the Earth is of little consequence if we have not also learned to live well on the Earth. What is the use of living long if we live in failure, brokenness, and trouble. If we listen to and heed, not only our parent's commands, but also their wisdom and teaching, then we will have a life worth living and our end will be prosperous.

Paul warns fathers not to provoke their children to anger. This does not mean that mothers do not do the same, but on balance, fathers are more susceptible to this fault. This particular Greek word means to "anger alongside" and it is an anger that springs up where a relationship should be. When fathers are always fault finding, always demanding, and always setting the bar so high that it is impossible for a child to reach, then the end result is anger between them and their child. I remember a time when one of my children asked me if they could do something and my immediate response was, "No!" but then I paused and asked myself, "Why not?" I realized that my automatic answer to everything was no. I was not taking the time to understand my child and to see if there really was a way they could do what they wanted to do. I was stunned and realized that if I continued in this manor the end result would be trouble and distance in my relationships with my children. That day I decided to think before I responded. Often we don't intend to provoke our children to anger, but we do so because we fail to see the patterns in our life that are destructive and not caring and nurturing towards our children.

Finally, fathers are told to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This requires that we first embrace the discipline and instruction in our lives. How can we communicate to our children what we have not first appropriated in our own lives? Secondly, it may require us to raise our children differently then we were raised. I've known fathers who sought to raise their children as they were raised only to find rebellion and anger arising in their children; the same anger and rebellion they had to their rather when he raised them that way. We are not called to raise our children as we were raised but to raise them as God would have us raise them. Peter writes of the, "futile way of life inherited from your forefathers." (1 Peter 1:18) Not everything we learned growing up is worth passing on to our children. Our goal should not be to make them like us, but to make them like Christ; to raise them in a way that Christ may be formed within them and that they may be conformed to His image, not ours. This may take a break from what we know and how we were trained, but it is worth it to see the Kingdom of God birthed in them and God's will done in them as it is in Heaven.

David Robison

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

As their own bodies - Ephesians 5:28-33

"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:28-33)
This is an interesting verse, especially in light of how some interpret the words of Jesus when He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) Some have misconstrued these words of Jesus to mean that we must love ourselves before we can love others. However, Paul's observation is that we already instinctively love ourselves. The problem is not in learning how to better love ourselves but in learning how to love others as we already love ourselves. Here Paul is simply restating the golden rule as taught by Jesus, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) Or. as my mother would say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The point is that we should treat our wives as we would wish to be treated. We should treat our wives with the same care, nurture, and attention we give to ourselves. In fact, our love for our wives should be even greater than our love for our neighbors, for she is a member of our own body. While we are called into harmony with our neighbor and into unity with our brethren, we are called to be one in body with our wives. Therefore they deserve first place in our love and they deserve to be loved even as we love ourselves. For, in truth, if we truly love our wives then we are truly loving ourselves as well.

One of the keys to loving our wives is perception. The Greek word for "hated" can also be translated "detest". How we look at our wives will determine if, and how, we will love them. Some men come to the place, for whatever reason, where all they see is the bad in their wives. They become fixated on their faults and short comings and forget why they fell in love with them in the first place. All they see are the things that irritate them and have they forgotten that which once drew him to her. Even where there are real failings in her life, his perception of her is to detest her rather than to extend Christ's love to her in a way that will help her to grow and overcome the issues in her own life. He becomes a man who demands perfection instead of nurturing growth in her and in their relationship. If we can learn to see past each other's failures then we can see the image of Christ that dwells in each other and we can then learn to cherish and nurture what is good and right in each other rather than always focusing on the bad in each other.

Paul says that, for this reason, a man should leave his father and mother... but for what reason? That the two of them, the man and the woman, might become one. To be "joined," in the Greek, means to be "glued" together. The reason a man is to leave behind his family is so that he might be adhered to his wife and that the two of them may form their own family, creating a new family out of two individuals. The process of becoming one requires that two be joined together. It requires a focused relationship where two lives intermingle to where all aspects of their lives become shared and held in common. A man cannot maintain his feet in two separate camps. One foot in his old life and one in his new. He must be "all in" and fully committed to his marriage and his wife, even to the forsaking of old relationships that would seek to distract or divert him from his primary mission of becoming one with his wife.

Paul's reference to this great mystery always baffled me. What was they mystery he was speaking of? This verse immediately follows him speaking of a husband and wife becoming one. Is this the mystery he refers to? If so, then why say he speaks in reference to Christ and the church? Here are some alternate translations to this verse that might help us to better understand what Paul is saying.
"This is a huge mystery, and I don't pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church." (Ephesians 5:32 The Message) 
"This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one." (Ephesians 5:32 NLT) 
"That is a great truth hitherto kept secret: I mean the truth concerning Christ and the Church." (Ephesians 5:32 Weymouth)
I believe that the mystery that Paul is referring to is God's plan to restore mankind back to Himself through the person of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, we are reconciled to God and, together with all the brethren are made one in Christ and one with the Father. This mystery, that we should be one in Christ, was hidden from the beginning of time and only reveled in the coming of Christ. However, although this truth was hidden, it was foreshadowed through the marriage relationship that God inaugurated in Adam and Eve. Marriage is an example of the kind of oneness that God intends for all of us; a oneness with each other and a oneness in Christ.

Finally, Paul summarizes his thoughts concerning husbands and wives: husbands are to love their wives as themselves and wives are to respect their husbands. It is interesting here that Paul does not repeat his words that wives should submit to their husbands. Here he conflates the ideas of submission and respect. The Greek word for "respect" literally means to be frightened, but is most often used in the context of awe and reverence. Respect is the key to submission. No one will submit to someone they do not respect or, if they do, they will do so only begrudgingly. When we belittle each other and practice fault-finding with each other, we loose the since of awe, reverence, and respect we have for the other person. However, when we look to see the good, the noteworthy, and the amazing image of God in others, then we can stand in awe of who God made them to be and it  becomes easy to submit one-to-another. Submission, as an act of love, always begins with respect. We must learn to cultivate respect for one another if we are to grow in love for one another.

David Robison

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Husbands, love your wives - Ephesians 5:25-27

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)
On balance, Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, devotes far more space to instructing husbands to love their wives as he does instructing women to submit to their husbands. I believe this is for two main reasons. First, because, for most men, loving their wives does not come naturally. Men can be very task focused leading them to pursue their goals, hobbies, and carriers with singular focus. Men also tend to compartmentalize their lives. They have their work life, the leisure life, their church life, and their home life. Sometimes, if men are not careful, their pursuit of things, like their carriers, can occur at the expense of other things in their lives, such as their spiritual life and the family life. Men need to be reminded frequently not to disregard one for the other and to remind themselves of what really matters in life.

The second reason Paul spends more time exhorting men to love their wives is because, as the head of the household, God holds them ultimately responsible for what happens in their families. In speaking of the fall of mankind, Paul writes this of the woman, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Timothy 2:14) However, he writes this of the man, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." (Romans 5:14) It was the woman who was deceived but it was Adam who sinned. God places the greater part of the culpability for the fall of mankind upon Adam then He does upon Eve. More instruction is given to men by Paul because of the greater responsibility they face for their family and the greater judgment they will receive for their failings in their families over those of their wife.

So how are men to love their wives? Paul shows us by reminding us how Christ loves the church; Christ being a figure of the husband and the church that of the wife. Paul reminds us how Christ gave Himself up for the church and asks men to do the same for their wives and their families. This Greek word used here for "gave" means to surrender, yield over, or to give to another. Men are asked to surrender their life for the well being of their family. They are asked to choose to give themselves to their family above all other duties and obligations they might have, even above their work and their church. This word can also mean to betray, bring into prison, or to hazard. Men are to betray their other pursuits and desires for those of their family. The are to hazard all other goals for the goal of a godly, joyful, and secure family. They are to imprison their wants and needs that they may pursue the wants and needs of their family. All this Jesus did for us and, as men, we should be willing to do the same for our families.

Jesus not only gave up His life for the church, but He loved her with action. Jesus said of Himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) I have meet many men who are passive and disengaged at home. They live at home to be served and not to serve. You can see it as their wife busies herself with cooking, cleaning, and raising the children while her husband sits around watching TV or pursuing one of his other many entertainments and hobbies; never raising a finger to help his hard working wife. A man who does not serve is a man who has not yet come to understand Christ in truth. If the very Son of God came to serve us, are we too great to serve others ourselves? Especially those of our own family? Yes, a man may work hard at work, but that is no excuse to turn a blind eye to the needs of their wife or family when he is at home. After all, work will one day come to an end and all we will have left are the relationships we have formed and nurtured in this life. Jesus said, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) The same could be said for the soul of a man's family.

Jesus not only loved the church with action, but He also loved her with purpose. He loved her that He might present her to Himself as a pure and spotless bride. This Greek word for "present" means to stand beside or to exhibit. Jesus is looking forward to the day when we, as His bride, will stand side-by-side with Him in glory; when we might be exhibited to all of creation as His pure and spotless bride; as that which above all things He prizes and loves. To this end, He ministers tirelessly through His words and by washing us with His love. Here's the point of this for us men: men, what kind of marriage do you want to have? What kind of relationship do you desire to have with your wife and children? We can have what ever kind of marriage and what ever degree of relationship with our family we desire, if we will work to produce it through our actions, words, and love. As men, if our marriage isn't great, that's our fault. If we lack a depth of relationship with our wives, then we need to do something about it. Jesus doesn't just sit around hoping things in the church will get better, rather He is actively working in the church through His love to bring about change and to build a greater bond of love and fellowship with her. We can have what every kind of marriage and wife we desire if we will just devote the time, effort, and faith in the pursuit of our marriage as we do in many of our other pursuits. It's time for men to get off the couch and learn to love and serve their families. If we will do so, then we will find the blessings in our marriage and families that God always intended for us to have.

David Robison

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wives, be subject - Ephesians 5:22-24

"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)
This is a difficult scripture to understand, especially given our present culture and our modern world view. Typically, this scripture is either simply ignored by the modern church or is declared to be written for a bygone age where women were systematically repressed by the prevailing views of a primitive culture. Some have fought against this scripture and some men have fought against their wives using this scripture as proof of their lordship in the home. However, given all this we still must deal with what Paul wrote and seek to understand how to apply it to our lives today.

Several thing stand out to me in this scripture. First, is that the word "subject" in verse twenty two does not exist in the original Greek but is implied by its use in verse twenty four. Verse twenty two literally reads, "Wives, unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." Certainly, subjection is implied, but more than that is the idea of being subject to "your own" husband as opposed to other male figures, such as someone's else's husband, your father, or even a pastor or priest. The goal of a marriage is that two individuals become one. When one listens to voices from outside their marriage, voices that seek to lead them into a separate life from the one they have been joined to in marriage, their incitements destroys the oneness that marriage seeks to bring. This does not mean that a couple, or even an individual, should not seek counsel from time to time, nor that they should avoid relationships outside of their marriage, but their devotion and submission should first be to their marriage partner, not some third party. One example may help in understanding this point. I once knew a couple who ended up in divorce. Once of the key areas of contention was Sunday afternoon lunch. The wife's family held the tradition of always getting together as a family for Sunday afternoon lunch. Even after getting married the wife insisted that her new husband attend the family lunch every Sunday against her husband's wishes. Her submission to her family was greater than her submission to her husband and it was a contributing factor to the demise of their marriage.

Secondly, wives as asked to submit to their own husbands as unto the Lord, but how does one submit to the Lord? Our submission to the Lord is voluntary. Christ came and set us free, then He asks us to submit to Him that we might walk in His ways and according to His will. Our submission to the Lord is of our own free will. We are not bound to submit nor are we forced to submit. Jesus calls to us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) We submit to His yoke and burden, not because we are forced to, but because we choose to. This scripture should never be used by husbands to force their wives into submission. Paul never told husbands to make sure their wives submit, but rather he asks wives to choose submission to their own husbands as a voluntary act of their free will. It is something for them to choose rather than something to be demanded and exacted from them. Furthermore, a wife's submission is not blind submission, submitting to every whim of her husband. A wife is under no obligation to submit to participating in sin or in anything that would degrade them or dishonor them for our submission to Christ would never bring us hurt or dishonor. We should never offer submission to anyone or anything that would lessen, destroy, or tarnish our submission to Christ.

Third, Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Some have interpolated this to mean, "leader," but these are actually two very different concepts. Speaking of Jesus, Peter said, "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." (Acts 4:11 KJV) Most translations translates this as Jesus being the "corner stone" but the actual word used here is the same used when Paul speaks of men as being the head of the woman. The head of the corner, or the corner stone, defines the building that is to be built. It is the point from which all measurements are taken and from which every wall is compared. Paul similarly writes of Jesus saying, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23) Jesus, as the head of the church, defines the church just as the husband as the head of the woman defines the family. When the church looses contact and relationship with Christ, it ceases to be the church. When two people living in a marriage live separate and competing lives, each trending to their own way and own desires and will, they become merely two people living under one roof rather than two people who are one. It must also be mentioned that, even though Jesus is the head of the church, He does not make all the decisions for the church nor forces His views and will upon the church. The church has great latitude in what it does, how it organizes itself, and how operates. Jesus is not the dictator of the church but the defining corner stone for the church. So ought husbands to be to their wives, not as dictators and lords, but as a common point from which all relationships within the family are measured.

Finally, Paul reminds us that Jesus is the savior of the Body. In describing Jesus as our savior, Paul is speaking of more than just the fact that Jesus saves us from hell and damnation. This is more clear when we understand that, even to a Body that has already passed from death unto life, Jesus is still their savior. To be a savior is to protect, keep safe, help make whole, and to benefit the ones we are watching over. Paul writes, "we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16) It is under the headship of Christ that the body grows and flourishes. It is under the protection and care of Christ that the Body is free to grow in the graces and blessings of God. It is under the lordship of Christ that each individual member of Christ finds their place in the Body. So should the husband be as the head of his family. Jesus reminded us that, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant." (Luke 22:25-26) To be the head is to be the servant of all. Those whom we lord over should be the benefactors of our authority, not ourselves. Wives are not called to submit to a husband whose will is destructive, harmful, or in anyway injurious to her or their children. A husband who acts in such a way is not the savior of the family but a destroyer instead. However, when a husband exercises his headship for the benefit of the family rather than himself, then submission is easy and its fruit sweet.

David Robison

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

And do not get drunk - Ephesians 5:18-21

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Paul is not condemning the drinking of alcohol, but the drinking to excess. Many of our sins today come from pressing the blessings of God to excess. God has created all things good, but when we pursue them apart from moderation, we end up serving the flesh and venture into sin. There is an interesting allegorical prophetic statement in the book of Judges that reads, "Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come, reign over us!' But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?'" (Judges 9:12-13) Wine is good when it is used for good purposes and can even cheer the heart of man. Even Solomon said, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter." (Proverbs 31:6) However, when taken to excess, like all the good things of God, it causes ruin, hurt, and destruction. This applies not only to wine but to excess in all forms, for example, excess in food, sex, speech, and luxury. In all these things, we are called to moderation.

Paul says that drunkenness leads to dissipation, This is a very interesting Greek word. It is a compound of a negative particle and a derivative of the Greek word "sozo". This word means to be delivered, saved, protected, and made whole. It is often used in speaking of the salvation that God has brought to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17) Here the word "saved" is the Greek word "sozo". What Paul is saying is that the kind of dissipation and excess that is produced by drunkenness and all other forms of excess in our lives leads us to the very opposite of what God intends for us. It leads us to anti-salvation, non-protection, and deteriorating wholeness. Being intoxicated with the things of this world leads us away from salvation and destroyed what little good that remains in our life. I once knew a man who was a believer yet started visiting bars with his friends. He began drinking and his drinking became more frequent. In six short months he went from a believer to being arrested for a crime he couldn't remember and being ordered not to see his wife and children. In six months, drink had cost him everything that was dear to him. He experienced the anti-salvation of excess and was a very broken man. Paul would have us to spare ourselves this tragedy by practicing temperance in every area of our lives.

Overcoming excess in our lives is not easy and many fall again and again into the same pattern of sin. The secret to overcoming any negative pattern in our live if to replace it with a better pattern of living. Here, for example, Paul is exhorting us to replace a pattern of drunkenness with a pattern of being filled with the Spirit. So how does one get filled with the Holy Spirit? Jesus told us when He said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13) Being filled with the Spirit requires a relationship with God. This is more than mere belief in God but a child like relationship where the child is free to ask of their father for the things they need. Only those in right relationship with the Father have the access and favor of God to ask for the Holy Spirit that they might receive Him and be filled with Him in every way.

Once filled, remaining filled with the Holy Spirit requires us to adopt a new pattern of living. This new pattern of living effects both how we live internally to ourselves and how we live externally towards others. While the NASU translation translates this verse as "speaking to one another," an alternate translations is, "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19 Darby) which makes more since as very few of us go around singing to our neighbor. There is an internal meditation that both welcomes the Holy Spirit and flows from Him and which is both pleasing to God and beneficial to our soul. Music has a powerful influence on the soul and those who learn to use it to feed their soul nourish themselves with true spiritual food. Along with our internal worship of God, our outward gratitude and thanksgiving to God also strengthens us and renews our mind as our mind listens to and participates in our thanksgiving to God.

As we renewing our mind with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and thanksgiving, we are also called to new way of living towards others. When we learn to live in a way that grants deference towards others and considers other's needs before our own, we break the strangle hold that our flesh has on our lives. Our lives no longer become all about us, but we begin to learn what it means to live in community and fellowship with others. David wrote, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing — life forever." (Psalms 133) God promises a blessing for those who have learned to dwell together in peace and unity and that blessing is "life forever." It is one thing to be filled individually with the Holy Spirit, but it is another to be filled together with the Holy Spirit. When we learn to walk in unity we together experience the filling of the Holy Spirit and we are all changed together as we truly become one in Him.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Be careful how you walk - Ephesians 5:15-17

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Perhaps the most literal translation of this verse is, "See, then, how exactly ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 YLT) while others translate it as, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 NKJV) The idea is that we should not go through life blindly, oblivious to how we are walking and the situations and circumstances that surround us. Life does not just happen. The fool simply goes along with everything that comes his way, but the wise examines everything, constantly looking and scrutinizing his life and ever aware of the situations and circumstances that surrounds him. To walk circumspectly means to look around, to see the full 360 degrees of your life, to look forward, sideways, and behind. It is a walk that it ever vigilant, always watching, and never slumbering. It is a life that is fully aware, fully awake, and fully engaged.

As we walk circumspectly, Paul encourages to make the most of our time. The Greeks have two words for time, the first is "chronos" which refers to the sequential passing of time and the other is "kairos" which refers to specific occasions and opportunities. When we think of making the most of our time we often think of "time management" where we try and optimize our schedule by making efficient use of our "chronos". However, here Paul is speaking of making the most of our "kairos" moments. While life progress relentlessly through chronos, it is those kairos moments in which life takes meaning and where the real value of life is found. In trying to optimize our time management, we can become so efficient at being busy that we miss the real opportunities of life. It has been said that we should "stop and smell the roses" which is the same as taking time to putting chronos aside that we might find value in those kairos moments of life.

The Greek word translated here as, "making the most" literally means to redeem, to buy back, or to buy up. Opportunities are always there for our taking, but often we pass right on by them and forfeit the blessings that could be ours and others in those moments. Paul told us that we have been, "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) God has created us for the very moments that He has prepared for us but we must seize, or "buy up" those opportunity if we are to make the most of them, both in our lives and in the lives of others. In order to buy up the opportunities that come our way we must be vigilant in looking for them, selfless in giving up our will and plans to take hold of them, and courageous to act on them when they come our way. Paul says that we are to do this because the "days are evil." This term does not mean evil in the moral since but is a derivative of a Greek word that means "toil" and by extension, "anguish". If we let life just happen, it will bury us in a mountain of work and obligations that will consume our entire life, A life lived on auto-pilot is a life consumed with work and toil and a life that is void of the very moments that make life worth living. If we do not intentionally take time to find those moments in life that God has created us to take hold of, then we will miss the very purpose for which we have been created.

Finally, Paul exhorts us not to be foolish but to understand the will of the Lord for our lives. The Greek term for "foolish" means to be "mindless" and "stupid" regarding life and how it works. The fool takes no thought of life nor does he ever take time to contemplate life; what is its meaning, what is its purpose, and what makes life worth living. The fool is driven through life by the evil winds of the day while the wise man takes hold of life, making himself the master of his life rather than letting life master him. This takes understanding of both life and the will of God for us. The Greek word for "understand" means to "put together" and it is the mental process by which we examine life in the light of the word of God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, that we might understand what and how we are to live. Most of us never contemplate life, we just accept it as it is, but Paul is asking us to examine our lives in the light of the will of God that we might better understand what life could be, not just what it is, and that we might then, by faith, forge ahead to redeem and buy back that life that God has for us. To find life we must find the will of God, to understand life we must understand the will of God, and to life life to its fullest we must embrace and live in the will of God for our lives.

David Robison

Monday, October 03, 2016

Rather expose them - Ephesians 5:11-14

"Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, 'Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'" (Ephesians 5:11-14)
We have a choice to either continue walking just as we used to or to walk along a new path, a new path that has been opened up for us by Jesus. The idea of the Greek word used here for "participate" implies more than just doing the same works as those in darkness are doing, but implies a fellowship with them and with their deeds. Darby translates this verse as, "do not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." (Ephesians 5:11 Darby) Paul is instructing us to do more than just leave behind the works of darkness. He is encouraging us to break fellowship with the whole system and community of darkness. It is more than just not doing these deeds ourselves, but we must be careful not to join in with others in the same deeds of darkness. We are no longer darkness, therefore our fellowship ought not to be in darkness but in light. To claim light but to remain in fellowship with darkness is a form of self deception and contrary to the truth.

Instead of participating in the deeds of darkness, we are called rather to expose them. This particular Greek word is interesting and, in almost every other place in the New Testament, it is translated as "rebuke" or "reprove". However, here, it is translated as "expose" to be consistent with the following verse that says that what ever becomes visible is "exposed" (same word) by the light. What Paul is not saying is that we ought to go around judging people and calling out their sin. What he is saying is that our lives should be lived in such contrast that they expose the shamefulness of those things done in darkness as compared to those things done in the light. Our lives, not our words, should be a light shining in darkness, showing a better way of living, exposing the lie of what most call life, and revealing to them that the that which they claim to be light is nothing but deep darkness. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

Paul speaks of those things which are done in secret and for which it is shameful and disgraceful to even mention them in public. However, we live in a culture that, not only has no qualms about speaking of such things in public, but even celebrates them and looks upon those who perform such deeds as heroes. Those who do those things that, even a generation ago would be considered disgraceful, not only glory in them publicly, but we declare them to be courageous and publicly honor them because of their choose to sin and sin publicly. As a society, we have become like those whom Isaiah warned of saying, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20) In doing such, we have become a generation that has lost its way and is venturing closer and closer towards destruction.

So what are we as believers to do, living is a world that is reveling in darkness? We must become light so that those who live in darkness can see the light of the Gospel and learn that they no longer need to live in darkness but can also be come children of the light just as we have become. We must awaken from our own stupor and arise from our own darkness that Christ may shine within us. We must lay aside our own works of darkness and learn to walk in the light that our deeds done in the light will expose and rebuke the deeds done in darkness. We must take up the light that those around us may see, not our judgment, but the path we have trodden from darkness of light; that they might be able to follow us from death into life, darkness into light, and corruption into life eternal.

David Robison

Thursday, September 29, 2016

You were formerly darkness - Ephesians 5:6-10

"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 be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:6-10)
Paul warns us of those who would try to deceive us with their empty words. The word used here for "deceive" can also be translated "to cheat." God had given to us great and precious promises and has secured for us an inheritance in heaven, an inheritance, "which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:4) However, there are those who have given themselves to licentiousness and have purposed to preach that which is no gospel and seek to lead us astray from our consistency and faith in Christ. They preach a false gospel of license for sin, claiming grace while they themselves are slaves of the sin they preach. Their teaching take many forms. Some, teaching that what is done in the flesh has no influence on the spirit, not knowing the destruction and death that sin works within us. Other claim grace frees them from all judgment and consequence of sin, as if God willfully turns a blind eye to the sins we commit in the flesh. Furthermore, some claim that participation in sacraments are sufficient to appease God, allowing us to continue in the flesh as long as we regularly also participate in the sacraments. All who teach such teach empty words and seek to cheat us of the promises and inheritance of God. God has not called us to a life of sin, but a life of holiness, righteousness, and truth. The truth is that it is these very things which warrant and bring for the wrath and judgment of God upon the disobedient.

When speaking of the disobedient, there is a clear link between disobedience and disbelief, as if they were two sides of the same coin. However, Paul does not speak of those who struggle to believe in their unbelief, but of those who refuse to believe in their disbelief. This particular Greek word speaks of those who persist in their unbelief even after the truth has come to them. This word come from the root word that means to be unpersuadable. It speaks not of one who has never known, nor of one who has never been properly trained in the faith, but of one who refuses to believe even when they are presented with the truth in the light of Christ. There are those who struggle to believe, like the man who cried out to Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief," (Mark 9:24) but there are also those who refuse to believe even in the light of the truth, and it is upon these to whom the wrath of God comes. We must remember the words of Jesus, "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." (John 7:17) If we are willing in our faith to obey Christ, then the Kingdom of God will open up to us. However, if we persist in our obstinance and unbelief, then our life will, in the end, be consumed under the wrath and judgment of God.

When we come to faith in Christ, it necessitates not only a new belief but also a new manner of living. While we were in darkness as to who God is, who we are, and who we are in relationship to God, we lived a life separated from God and given over to the impulses and lusts of our flesh. We lived, believed, and moved in darkness. However, now we have come into the light and we are called to put away all the deeds of darkness and to be renewed in our minds and our behavior by the light we now walk in. One cannot claim to be in the light and continue to walk in darkness. Either we are in the light and walk in the light or our continuance to walk in darkness gives proof that our hearts, minds, and soul are still in darkness regardless of what we claim to the contrary.

To walk in light requires a break from the world and culture around us. The world is in darkness and "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." (1 John 5:19 NKJV) If we pattern ourselves after the world, then we too will find ourselves walking in darkness. We cannot allow ourselves to be trained by the world if we hope to walk in light. To walk in the light we must allow the grace of God to teach us how to walk. The world teaches us how to sin, but grace teaches us how to live. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." (Titus 2:11-13)

Those in the world live to please themselves, but those in the light live to please God. The world has taught us one way to live. Peter refers to the "futile way of life inherited from your forefathers." (1 Peter 1:18) Now it is time to let the Lord teach us how to live those things that are pleasing to Him. We must shed from our lives those works that done in pleasing the world and pleasing ourselves and take unto ourselves those things that please God. This can only be done as we walk in the light and submit to the light and allow the light to teach us how to live in relationship with God. If we will do this then our lives will be filled with light and our works will demonstrate the light that is inside us.

David Robison

Saturday, September 17, 2016

as is proper among saints - Ephesians 5:3-5

"But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." (Ephesians 5:3-5)
Paul speaks of what is, or rather is not, proper among the saints. This Greek word for "proper" can also be translated as "befitting" and means to be conspicuous or to stand out. Paul is asking us to consider how others see us and to identify those characteristics that define our lives before men; is it a life lived in righteousness and holiness or is it a life steeped in the same sin and depravity as we see in the world around us today? If we have a claim to be saints of God and if we profess that Christ has forgiven us and set us free from the bondage of sin, then ought not our lives be a conspicuous show of the truth and fruit of what we confess? If we claim to be born again then should we not show forth a newness of life that wasn't present within us before our rebirth? Paul is calling us to consider that there are those things that are befitting of a born again child of God and there are those things that are befitting of those who have yet to find freedom from sin in Christ. Therefore, if we have become saints of God then we ought to live as such in holiness, righteousness, and all purity.

To this end, Paul focuses on three thing regarding our behavior and three things relating to our manner of speech. Paul says that we must lay aside all immorality, impurity, and greed. The Greek word for "immorality" is the same word from which we get our English word for "pornography." This word refers not only to fornication but to all forms of sexual impurity, license, and perversion. This includes not only the actual participation in illicit sex but also participation in pornography and other forms of sexual impurity. In Paul's day, sexual sin was just as rampant, if not more so, than it is in our world today. Paul warns believers not to bring their old sexual practices with them into the Kingdom of God but rather to learn a new way of living and to return to purity when it comes to the issue of sex. In speaking of impurity, Paul is making a reference to the old Jewish law that classified things as either clean or unclean. The Jewish law taught the Jews to live a life of purity, shunning those things that were unclean and cleaving to those things that were clean. As saints of God, we are called to live a life of purity; to put aside all mixture in our lives, to not grasp for what is clean while we still try and hold onto what is unclean. Our lives should not be a mixture of light and darkness, or good and evil, or clean and unclean but rather a life that is singularly consistent with our confession.

Paul also references our manner of speaking when he says that we should lay aside all filthy talk, silly talk, and course jesting. It is interesting that the three Greek words used here are only use in this passage of scripture. Filthiness refers to all shameful and/or obscene talk, including filthy stories and obscene jokes. The phrase "silly talk" can also be translated "foolish" or "vain" and it means to talk like a fool. Solomon had a lot to say about the speaking of a fool: "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2 NIV) "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." (Proverbs 29:11 NKJV) As believers it is fitting for us to use discretion and understanding in our speech, not simply blurting out everything that come into our mind. The Greek word for "jesting" means "easily turned" and refers to a quick wit and an ever ready repartee. Wit and good humor are pleasant among friends but it can be taken to an extreme where it descends into base, course, and obscene banter that can wound, hurt, and offend the hearers. Paul's remedy for these things is that, in laying aside these things, we instead take up the practice of giving thanks; to lay aside old manners of speaking and put on a new manner that is characterized by gratitude and thankfulness.

Paul warns us that, for those who fail to lay aside the old life, a life characterized by impurity, immorality, greed, and idolatry, that they will have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God and of Christ. It is interesting that Paul speaks of having no inheritance and one could read into this that such a one may yet still be saved, but will suffer lost of inheritance upon entering into eternal life. Peter speaks of that inheritance that awaits us in heaven, "to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you," (1 Peter 1:4) and Paul speaks of those who, while yet obtaining salvation, still suffer loss in their salvation, "each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) Either way, we must understand that the life we live here on the Earth had a direct influence on the life we will inherit in the age to come. Let us therefore choose to live a life different from the prevailing wind of our culture and those around us so that in the life to come we may also live a life that is different from that which once was our destiny and the reward of our sin.

David Robison

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Be imitators of God - Ephesians 5:1-2

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." (Ephesians 5:1-2)
The Greek word for "imitate" means to "mimic" or to be a "mime." In ancient Greek it was used to reference an actor who mimicked the movements and behaviors of someone, often to the point of extremes and for the purpose of humor through mocking. We are called to mimic God in our behavior, actions, and speech. We are to be, as it were, mimes imitating God so others can see what He is like, so they can understand His nature, and so they can comprehend His love and disposition towards them, but how can we mimic and imitate one who is invisible; one whom we cannot see, hear, or touch?

Paul encourages us to imitate God as children imitate their parents. This implies more than simple duty. It implies an imitation that is motivated by a desire to copy the habits and ways as one we we view with esteem and wonder. However, in our case, this requires that we first come to know God as our Father, especially when our earthly fathers did not demonstrate to us much that was worthy of being imitated. To know God as our Father, we need to learn from Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. Jesus said, "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matthew 11:27) In fact, Jesus went so far as to say to His disciples, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9) We must learn what Jesus has to teach us of the Father, especially that which He taught by His actions and deeds. It is only in right relationship with Jesus that we can receive the revelation of our invisible Father in heaven.

Paul also tells us we should imitate the Father just as Jesus also did. This means not only learning from Jesus but we must also learn of Jesus. Jesus said of Himself, "And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." (John 8:29) Jesus, as a Son and fellow brother to God with us, was always doing, in imitation of our Father, the things that were pleasing to Him. When we learn of Christ, of His charter, nature, and behavior, then we learn the things we ought to imitate to please the Father. In other words, if we imitate Jesus whom we can see (in the recorded account of His life) then we will also be imitating our Father in heaven whom we cannot see. Jesus not only left His teaching behind, He left a pattern of living that was righteous and well pleasing in God's site, We ought to search out these things in the scriptures and do in our lives the very things Jesus did in His.

Finally, Paul says we ought to live lives of love and sacrifice towards others. This is what Jesus did for others and what our Father did for us. John tells us that, speaking of our Father, that He "is love." (1 John 4:8) More than being lovable and loving, God is love; His every thought, intent, and action towards us is characterized and motivated by love. When we express love to those around us we are imitating our Father who is love itself. More than that, not only did Jesus sacrifice for us, but so did the Father. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:16-17) Our Father sacrificed His Son for our sake. He gave to us something very precious that we might know His love for us and be freed, in the sacrifice of Jesus, to love Him in return and to be reconciled back to Him in love. Every time we place our needs and wants before those of others, we are imitating our Father in His love and sacrifice towards us. Jesus told us, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Most of the time, this laying down of our lives, does not involve voluntary death, but is found in small and simple ways where we consider the needs and interests of others above and before ourselves. When we love in this way then we have truly learned to imitate our Father.

David Robison