both

ephesians

The book of Ephesians is an amazing study. If I ever wrote a commentary, and I don’t expect that to come any time soon…or ever, but if I did, it would be on this glorious book. One of the joys of studying a book, again and again, is shining the spotlight on individual verses and sections. Getting in really close. We saw this at our Wednesday night Bible study as our pastor got in close with Romans 1:7. That is good. We need to do that. But sometimes we gain from the far off overview as well. I listened to Mark Dever from Capital Hills Baptist Church and his overview of Ephesians, one Sunday morning while I was working out at the Y, to prime me for a text that I would hear preached at our worship service later on in the morning, from that same book.

The beauty of Ephesians is that it’s broken down into two parts, right down the middle. The first three chapters is theological, about God, Who He is and about what He has done for believers. There are some rich sections that are particularly meaningful to many believers world-wide. The second half of the book is more practical. In light of what God has done in the cross work of Jesus, because of our faith in Christ, here is how I am empowered to live. Paul doesn’t pull any punches. He shoots straight about how we’re to live in Christian community and in the workplace and in our households.

I would suggest that most believers and most churches are most interested in one or the other. Theology or practicality….but both are necessary.

Theology reminds us about the depths and riches of God. It reminds us of who God is. He is triune, holy, mighty, good, judge, knows all things, and sees all things. He is a God who is jealous. He is gracious and kind and merciful and patient…but He’s also a God of wrath. I’ll borrow from another book for a majestic descriptions of Him:

[33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
[34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
[35] “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
[36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

But then out of that, who God is, flows biblical Spirt-empowered behaviour. Humility, gentleness, patience, unity, that all flows from our relationship with God, in increasing measure. Believers are not to act like unbelievers because God’s Spirit indwells them. We are to speak the truth in love to other believers. We’re to speak well of each other. We’re to forgive like God forgives (and we could write books on that topic – for a good understanding of biblical forgiveness see Chris Brauns’ book ‘Unpacking Forgiveness’). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and wives are to submit to their husbands. Children should obey their parents and dads shouldn’t frustrate their kids. We’re to treat our bosses and our employees well and we’re to be involved in spiritual warfare. All these things that we’re to do flow out of our theology and they are all found in Ephesians 4-6.

Now there’s two wrong turns that many churches and/or individual believers make, myself included:

1. We can cram our heads full of theology and attend Bible study and worship services and study the Bible well and learn about God…but we can’t stop there. Joy and life and zeal and desire and obedience and right relationships need to flow from it. It’s information for transformation. It’s not just to learn more about God, as important as that is. Theology is the soil for right living. Theology is the foundation to live out our faith well and bring glory to God in Christian community and for it to spill over into the unbelieving community.

2. We can be all about loving people and witnesses and doing good stuff but not have a foundation. We don’t just behave well because we’re told to in a sermon. We don’t just pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. If we don’t have a foundation for our behaviour, we’re going to fall in the ditch…maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. What we believe about Christ and the gospel is foundational for right behaviour. Rich theology reminds us that when we blow it we run back to the cross for more forgiveness and grace. Theology reminds us that we are empowered by the gospel to live well and we need to abide in Jesus (John 15) in order to live well…we can do nothing without Him. Theology reminds us what right evangelism should look like.

I’d suggest that we all lean to one or the other. We’re studious, so we study, and that’s good…but we also need to live out our faith in Christian community and before the unbelieving community. And some of us are doers by nature but need to put on lead shoes every morning to hunker down and dig into the Word and learn about God…and that’s the foundation for what we do.

That’s one of the big pictures that you get from Ephesians. Ephesians 1-3, believing, and Ephesians 4-6, behaving. So rejoice in the glory of God and also live well in light of His glory, empowered by His grace.

 

 

 

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