Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

March 7th, 2013 · No Comments


Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is the Book of Christ and the Church. The vision is by nature eschatological and teleological, because it uniquely reveals God’s Plan to bring everything in creation into harmony and unity with His order under the Headship of Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (Eph 1:10). The Church in union with Christ lies at the heart and center of this plan. It is through the Church that God has chosen to reveal His manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places, in accordance with the eternal purpose He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord (3:10-11). Among the books of holy Scripture, Ephesians has a unique role in making known this great mystery of God’s plan for Christ and the Church. It reveals that the Church is God’s purchased and treasured possession (1:12, 14, 18), the “One New Man” (2:14-15), a Holy Temple in the Lord, fitly framed together to be the Dwelling of God in the Spirit (2:20-22). We also find that the Church is the Body of Christ, of which Christ is the Head, called to grow up into Him in all things, to a measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ (4:7-16). Finally, and this is not exhaustive, the Church is the Son’s Bride, betrothed (2 Cor 11:2-3) and one day to be presented to Him in all its glory, blameless, holy, without spot or wrinkle, called to be His eternal companion, bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh, a union which Paul calls a great mystery (Eph 5:28-32). If understood, the content and message of Ephesians should leave us breathless, in awe of God’s great love and power, and of the surpassing riches of His grace bestowed on us in the Beloved (1:7; 2:7). It is a great and indescribable honor and privilege to be redeemed and called to such a high and holy calling. My prayer is that many will come to understand this great vision given by revelation to the apostle Paul and be inspired to walk in a manner worthy of this calling (4::1-6:24), with joy, renewed faith, humility, and submission to God. Time is short, the hour is late; indeed, the time is already past for us to have awakened from sleep, for the night is almost gone and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Rom 13:11-14). Let us, the sons of the light, be alert, sober, and dressed in readiness to do our Lord’s will (1 Thess 5:1-11; Luke 12: 34-36). Let those who have ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church, for the Spirit and the Bride, say, come! (Rev 22:17).

My hope and prayer then is that the true remnant of God’s people will hear and grasp the message and vision for Christ and the Church in Ephesians. I pray that many will walk away from this study with renewed faith, gripped with a burning vision and passion to pursue the purpose of God in Christ for His people, setting our interests on the things above and resolutely committing ourselves to do His will as the chief objective of our lives. A people purchased by the Blood of His Son and called to such a high calling in Him should do nothing less. We are promised great reward, an immeasurably valuable prize, if we live in a manner worthy of this calling.

Many today are frustrated about the state of the so-called Church, finding it extremely difficult to relate to the versions of “Christianity” and of “the Church” presently on offer in American culture, and even world-wide. We read the Bible and get a glimpse of what it says about the Church; we look at what presently claims to represent it, and something for sure does not add up. Some have been hurt, and struggle to this hour with bitterness and disillusionment; worse yet, some have given up on the whole enterprise of God’s collective purpose for His people and have even been tempted to abandon the faith. The vision of Christ and the Church in Ephesians offers a door into renewed faith, hope, love, and obedience to God that will bring great joy to those who hearken to the Word and seek the Lord with all of their hearts. We must by all means shake ourselves from the dust, and awaken from our slumber. This is not the hour to sleep, nor to allow past offenses be a ground of justification for our own inaction; we will give an account for our deeds at the judgment seat of Christ and the sins of others will provide no ground of appeal for our own sins, whether of commission or omission. We must own our part in the problem, take responsibility for our own sin, repent, forgive, and get back on the road of obedience that leads to glory. God still has a plan for His Church, and it is time for His people to hear the Spirit’s call to return and rebuild the House of God, the place of His Dwelling on planet earth. Our hearts need to be united with and committed to the Biblical vision for the Church and we then must take radical steps to move in the right direction. We must by all means lift up the hands that hang down, strengthen the feeble knees, and make straight paths for our feet, not letting the wounded limb become lame, but rather letting it be healed (Heb 12:12-13). God will heal, for He disciplines us to the end that we may share in His holiness (12:1-11). If we understand and hearken to the message of Ephesians, the Lord will call us out of frustration, isolation, bitterness, blame-shifting, and aimlessness, and back into worship and service that accords with His good pleasure. The Father of spirits calls us to turn from our selfishness and carnality so that we might enter with renewed faith and vision into the fullness of His purpose for us.

Deconstruction of wrong thinking and attitudes, ruthlessly exposing lies and hypocrisy, all this is a difficult, but necessary part of the work that must be done in this hour. This is especially so in these days, as we seek to save ourselves from “a crooked and perverse generation” (Deut 32:5; Acts 2:40; Phil 2:14-16). The things Paul predicted in 2 Tim 3:1-4:5 are taking place right before our eyes. People claiming to be Christians, but still driven by their own interests and desires, have sought out teachers who tickle their ears and tell them what they want to hear. They fill great halls called “churches”, and fill the airwaves of so-called “Christian programming” night and day, incessantly spinning out aberrant teachings that appeal to the interests of men but that do not in any way promote the interests of God (Matt 16:21-23). What is on offer is without question a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel (2 Cor 11:2-4), a form of godliness that lacks the power of true godliness because it is devoid of truth (2 Tim 3:5), driven by covetousness, jealousy, pride, and selfish ambition, which opens the way to a wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:14-16), a Satanic counterfeit dressed up in nice Christian garb, but inwardly full of corruption and dead men’s bones. The end product is that most, usually without knowing it, have turned away from the truth and become participants in a fraudulent, ongoing, and well-funded propagation of fables. It is not true Christianity, nor does it have any intention of being so.

We are in a day where the true Gospel, in the tradition of the prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Holy Apostles, must be restored, laying out in no uncertain terms the hope of the coming kingdom of God and the true nature of the repentance attached to that proclamation as the condition for entering and participating in the grace and glory of that kingdom. Part of what makes the task of the true man of God so hard is that the posers and peddlers who adulterate the Word of God (2 Cor 2:17; 4:2) seem at present to have taken the high ground. The sheep have been fleeced and led astray, as they gladly follow and give huge sums of money to these so-called “churches” and “ministries” that will be brought to judgment (in the test of fire) in the day of the Lord (1 Cor 3:10-15). Few want to hear a well-measured Biblical critique of the false teachings and the pathetic and anemic church structures that are functionally little more than social clubs, that do not seek to live out the vision for the Church that Paul lays out so quintessentially in the book of Ephesians.

The false, which poses as the true, is, in the end, not benign, but aggressively cancerous and deadly, counter-productive to the true work God would have for His people. There truly is nothing new under the sun. “Let none find fault”, decried the pained prophet to a lawless generation that had forsaken the knowledge of God and its priestly role in His purpose (Hosea 4:1-6). The same attitude prevails today in a corrupt generation that has no place for correction or Divine rebuke. One simply should not dare to shine a light on the erroneous teachings, love of money, and abusive practices of self-serving ministers of Satan that lead God’s sheep astray, self-aggrandizing peddlers who think the Word of God is nothing more than a piece of merchandise from which they can gather gain and then call it the blessing of God, arrogant, manipulative charlatans dressed in sheep’s clothing who inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15-23), whose judgment slumbers not (2 Pet 2:1-2). It all sounds so negative, who needs it? Driven by motives of self-interest, many choose to turn their ears away from the truth, because Christianity, for them, is primarily about what they get out of it, and not about the purpose, praise and glory of God revealed in Holy Scripture. We must here be honest: what today is called ministry and church does not in most cases pursue that Divine purpose that has as its ultimate goal the praise of God’s Name. Almost everything, rather, is driven and guided by motives of self-interest, resulting in egregious hypocrisy. Yes, we can talk a good talk, convincing ourselves that we are about the real thing. But the application of any reasonable standard of Biblical measurement reveals that we in practice do not set ourselves to attaining the teleological goals of which it speaks. In a word, we say a lot about the Word of God, but do not do it, and are, as a result, self-deluded. We would not have to go far to find that the Bible continually warns against this phenomenon. But since “Jesus did it all” and we are all “justified by grace, through faith” it seems to most of contemporary Christianity only a secondary concern to be serious about receiving with humility the implanted Word that is able to save our souls, or about the actual doing of that Word (James 1:21-25). That Word calls us to self-denial and cross-bearing (Matt 16:24-27; Phil 1:27; 2:1-16), and into a life-walk of transformation and image-bearing where Christ lives in us and we as beloved children of God actually walk in love just as Christ did in His own act of self-sacrifice for us (Gal 2:20; Eph 3:16-17; 5:1-2).

That said, we do not in this study intend to focus on criticizing what clearly is false, but to lay out the positive message of God’s purpose for His people as revealed in the book of Ephesians, which should inspire repentance, renewed faith and hope, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Our main objective should be to become the real Church, for Jesus, and to the honor, glory, and praise of God. It will take all of our time, focus, and energy to do so, in the power of God, and there is, at the end of the day, little time for anything else if we are truly of a sober spirit and a serious mind governed by sound judgment. I have seen it too often: wounded Christians justifying their own sinful attitudes of bitterness on the basis of the Church’s hypocrisy and failure to walk in love. We must go another direction, the Jesus way, which is to forgive, to overcome, to walk in love, seeking and setting our minds on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right of God (Col 3:1-4). We must be ready to repent, submit to God’s Word, and get fully on board with the purpose God has revealed, and for which Christ has died. I speak here, not from the high-tower of academic theology, but from a painful pastoral and prophetic pathos that sees the chasm between what God has revealed and what presently exists among the people called by His Name. Taking inventory here is necessary: we should hearken to Paul’s admonition to examine ourselves to see whether we are really in the faith, the proof being that Jesus Christ lives in us, unless we prove to be reprobate (2 Cor 13:5). Many are hurt and stuck in patterns of sinful attitudes and behavior that grow out of a root of bitterness, governed by strongholds of wrong thinking that spring from a wounded heart and that fester into choices of rebellion in which we refuse to submit to God’s Word and sadly fail to embrace the life of crucifixion and resurrection through which alone we may bear good fruit for God, by the grace of God (2 Cor 10:3-6). Added to this, there are structural impedances in the present church paradigms that turn people redeemed by Jesus and endowed with grace-gifts for service into spectators rather than warriors and servants of God’s purpose. The hour is urgent, and we must purpose in our hearts to quit making excuses for ourselves, for we all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for what we have done with the stewardship and grace bestowed upon us in Christ. I say this in all sincerity: it is time to get the “log” out of our own eye, so that we may then be the Church for which Jesus died. To that end we now embark on our study of this inspired document that takes us into the great mystery of Christ and the Church.

Tags: Teachings

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