Ephesians 1:

v5: Speaks of us being “predestined” to be adopted into His family. I do not believe that people have no choice regarding their salvation. I think the “predestination” part is God insisting that His Kingdom WILL HAVE FALLEN HUMANS AS MEMBERS, rather than condemning all people. This notion of predestination, or God’s determination to have a Bride for His Son, becomes evident in the parable of Matthew 22:1-10. He sent invitations for a feast for his son, but these were ignored by the people. So rather than destroying every soul, He sent his workers to the “nooks and crannies” of the world so that his table would be filled. If predestination according to Calvin, which leaves no individual choice for Heaven or Hell, was accurate, then why evangelize since every person’s destiny has been predetermined by God? Judas Iscariot was chosen by Jesus, but he refused to repent and follow Him. It was his choice to refuse. God did not make him choose death. Yes, I know He predicted the betrayal in the OT, but just because God can see the future it does not mean that He CAUSES everything to happen. Matthew 22:14 goes on to say that “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Maybe those few that are “chosen” have a lot less choice, I don’t know. I just view “the called” as individuals who have a extra strong encounter with God that brings them into His Kingdom for His service. Paul is that good example. Jesus did say to His Twelve that they did not choose Him but He choose them (John 15:16). Even after Saul got knocked down by a resurrected Jesus on the Damascus Road, however, he could have said, “Nuts to all this!” I just don’t see believers as robots…ever. That’s not love. I don’t believe God would enjoy robots forever. Would you?

Note: Whatever doctrines are true – 1) choice in salvation vs. no choice, 2) hell is everlasting torment for human souls vs. hell is punishment then destruction (no more life ever) – what difference does it really make for us now? None. No matter what is true about these issues we all need to love Jesus with all we have and love others as we love ourselves, which includes sharing the Gospel with others because we do not know if they will be saved or not. These issues have divided Christians but they should not.

v7: Grace means that God gives us abilities we do not possess on our own in order to please and obey Him. It’s a direct blow to our egos. God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud (James 4:6). I have known many believers with the grace of God. They are able to view and act according to God’s way rather than man’s way.

Ephesians 2:

v2: Satan identified as the “prince of the power of the air” and that he works through disobedient people. We believers were also part of this power flow. “Power of the air” implies the extent of permeation Satan’s influence is throughout this world.

v3: Identifies human nature as being evil, not good as humanists believe. If we are basically good, then we do not need a total “inverse change.” We would simply need to be “tweaked.” I believe that tweaking is not enough to produce true righteousness. In fact, it falls far short (Romans 3:23).

v8-9: A major part of the Gospel – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not that of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” No boasting? Amen! No more Yankee fans telling me they’ve won more World Series than any team!

v10-19: Putting to death the enmity. Enmity means hostility or hatred or ill-will between two sides. In life, there was enmity between God and man due to man’s disobedience. There was enmity between the Law and salvation since no one could measure up to the Law. There was enmity between Jews and Gentiles because the Jewish lineage was the spiritual promise, but the non-Jewish lineage was pagan. In Christ, all these enmities have been swept away so that all people can now be one in Christ. What a masterful piece of work God did in Christ Jesus!

Ephesians 3:

v1-11: This reveals the magnitude of revelation about God and His plans not only to humans, but to the rulers in the spirit realm as well (v10). It seems that God’s Plan of redeeming humans and making them one with each other (Jews and Gentiles) and one with God Himself is quite an undertaking, making the very angels of God wonder how He will pull it off (1Peter 1:12).

v17: This reveals the specific thing that will keep a Christian on the right path in this life — “grounded in love.” How does this look currently? We love Jesus beyond all else, and love people (no matter what they are like). We are all “diamonds in the rough.”

v19: If we knew all knowledge of the world, it would NOT surpass knowing the LOVE OF CHRIST.

Note: One of my Foundations Class participants at my church responded well to my last commentary from Ephesians 3. I think others can benefit from his plight:

DAN: I definitely felt that this was speaking to me, sometimes I go after knowledge more than God. I tend to lean more toward knowledge, it’s a constant struggle, as ego/knowledge is merely of the world.

DAVE: You are blessed that you perceive this in your personality – only then can you combat and conquer it. Knowledge is kind of like money, it’s good to have but there is a tough test to go along with it. In 1 Cor. 8:1 it says that knowledge “puffs up” or “makes arrogant.” So here is the “knowledge test” – can we remain humble, submit our brains to the Holy Spirit, and allow the Spirit to use our knowledge to glorify Jesus? Most people I know with great intelligence do not spend much time in the Word, or in prayer, or in worship. It’s too bad, because intellect and spiritual power is a great one-two punch. The solution is always simple. We make it hard. We simply must lay our IQs and desire for knowledge upon His altar and ask Him to sanctify it. “Sanctify” means “separated for God’s use.” Christians with various abilities need to do this with those talents – teaching, athletics, administrations, hospitality, music, singing, kindness, etc. For example, we can be very hospitable, but still not flow in the spirit. 2 Cor. 10:5 speaks of taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This should occur after going through the “sanctification prayer.” My desire for knowledge is motivated to show others the truth about situations and the Lord so that they can believe or improve their Christian walk. If I have a desire to get knowledge to show off or to think that I am a more valuable person than those who are not as informed, then I must confess to the Lord that this pride is sin. Then ask Him to remove it. He will. I really appreciate your honesty and desire to communicate.

DAN: Thank you for your thoughts, Dave. I definitely believe that knowledge needs to be sanctified to glorify God. As it is with all of our talents/abilities/gifts, they all need prayer and sanctification to be used for God’s glory. I find that sometimes I go too long without prayer. I am all too often wrapped up in my own thoughts and philosophical wanderings. In my case, when I start thinking deeply about things as I often tend to do, my mind tends to go a bit too far. That is, when the focus turns from God, the mind can and does create impossibilities. I can’t count how many times and moments I have wasted just thinking about non-important things in order to “challenge” my intellect. I think this can be a tool that the enemy uses to keep us from prayer.

Ephesians 4:

v3-6: We must preserve the unity of spirit.

v10: Perhaps this means that God (via Jesus) came down to the darkness and conquered it thereby eventually filling ALL things with his light.

v11-13: The Five-Fold Ministry. Very few churches follow this directive from the Scriptures. Christ gave 5 major positions (callings) to serve, equip, and build up His church. They are:

1) Apostles – those who are sent out to start new churches.
2) Prophets – those who speak messages from God for direction, edification, encouragement, etc.
3) Evangelists – those who emphasize getting people into God’s Kingdom.
4) Pastors – those who shepherd (guide) the sheep (people of the local church).
5) Teachers – those gifted to present God’s Word in an exciting and understandable manner.

v14: A GREAT PROMISE = So if we are committed to a church that has these positions in place and operating in love, then we will not be carried away with false doctrines and other forms of deceit.

v15: One of my favorites – “Speak the Truth in love.” It says it all. Lots of application.

v17-19: A description of the unsaved = futility of mind, darkened in understanding, apart from God due to their ignorance of Him, hard hearts, become callous leading to sensuality, impure habits, and greediness.

v22: The lusts of deceit = because we are born in sin and are ruled by iniquity, wrong things have an appeal to us so we a “sitting ducks” to be deceived by many different things. “Lust” has a broad definition. It’s not merely a sexual connotation. It’s a longing to have something that makes us feel good, but leaves us empty in the long run. Examples are: drugs, power, fame, money, social status, food, pleasures of this fallen world, and more.

v23: We need to be renewed in our minds – reading God’s Word in the proper attitude does this (Romans 10:17 and 12:2). Our thought-life can be more easily controlled by having God’s Word on the tip of our tongues, so we need to spend time reading it. All our battles begin in our minds, fought in our minds, and are won or lost in our minds. Hence, our minds need to be renewed, and I’d say daily.

v26: There is righteous anger, but we need to be careful not to cross the line into sin with it. Holding it in for a long time is not healthy, either. Anger can be channeled into a good work, but most of the time it is destructive to our inner selves and/or to others. This kind must be cast away to Jesus…let Him take it away.

v27: “Do not give the devil an opportunity (or place).” When we struggle with fleshly weaknesses from our past sinful lifestyle, there usually are triggers and steps that occur prompting us to sin. If we meditate or seek God in prayer, we often can identify these steps. Once we know what they are, we simply have to cut it off BEFORE taking the first one, then we won’t progress to the “sin step.” With me, it was anger. One trigger is when a job that is supposed to take 10 minutes (for a handyman) and I reach my 55th minute. I start to lose it. So when I start to think that I’m not a handyman and this thing is taking too long, I take a “Holy Pause” and tell the devil to begone! It works. By doing this, I am not giving him an opportunity (and I am renewing my mind). We may have to avoid places, people, or situations depending on what the sin is. Shutting off the TV may be step #1 for many of us (see Psalms 101:3).

v28: Earning money by working is advocated. It prevents theft and could help others in need.

v29: Our speech must be clean at all times, whether or not others are around because it reflects what is in our hearts (Matthew 12:34). If we say good things from God it can give grace to those who listen.

v31: We must rid ourselves of any bitterness, slander, malice, anger. These can destroy us from within and defile others (Hebrews 12:15).

v32: Forgive others just as God has forgiven us. If we realize how much we have been forgiven, it becomes easy to forgive others just a few things (Luke 7:47). Grudges are dangerous and injurious. Get rid of them immediately, no matter what the issue. We are not saying that the person did not do wrong, but we are letting it go and forgiving them of that offense. If we don’t, why then should God forgive us? God will deal with those who are not sorry for what they did to us.

Deep down somewhere in our heart we choose whether or not to forgive someone. If we choose not to, then God will not force us. Our faith will not force us. Nothing can force us. It is a matter of our heart. Are we willing to forgive? If yes, then God and our faith will help us pull it off. It may be immediate, or it may take some time. But we all must do this (Matthew 6:15).

Advice: Husbands — you concentrate ONLY on loving your wife and do not be concerned about receiving respect from her. You follow the Lord’s command here. Wives — you concentrate ONLY on respecting your husbands (no matter how many faults you have spotted in him) and do not criticize him for not loving you. You follow the Lord’s command here. God will take care of the rest.

Ephesians 5:

v1-5: Concern for a Christian group’s reputation – several things cannot be tolerated among believers.

v16: Redeeming the time wisely because the days are evil. If Paul’s days were evil, how much more evil are days now? Jesus did say that evil would increase in the last days (Matthew 24:12). We need to give more time each day to God and do His thing more than our thing. I’m not saying don’t go to work. We can bring God’s Spirit into work by the way we carry ourselves, care for other workers, react to a crisis, etc. We can sow seeds of eternal salvation in many ways. Someone once said, “I witness to people about Jesus every day…sometimes with words.” This is not to minimize the importance of words. People need to know where our goodness comes from or it’s all a waste. But, to me, this says our actions need to back up our words.

v18-21: Describes two alternatives – 1) be intoxicated with “wine” (a metaphor for “this world”) or 2) God’s Spirit. If in the Spirit, we will encourage one another by the Word, statements of faith, being loyal to one another, singing uplifting songs about the Lord with each other, valuing one another as being more important than ourselves.

v22-33: Husbands are to LOVE their wives as Christ LOVES the Church. Wives are to RESPECT their husbands. If these two commands are obeyed by both genders, the marriage will flourish! Many problems will be avoided. Many wrong thoughts and desires will be avoided. Others will notice something is different.

Ephesians 6 – Are We Gaining or Retreating?

v1-3: Children must honor and obey parents. God promises a long and decent life if they do. Teen peer pressure (mostly covert) usually breeds rebellion and disrespect for parents. Too often teens are embarrassed to be seen with their parent by their peers. Also, because today’s society is so warped and backwards, parents try to be friends with their kids rather than their parents. Parents should be friendly, but not friends in an enabling sense of the word.

v4: The balance: dads are not to provoke their children to anger but do bring them up in the discipline of the Lord. This does not mean harshness and beatings, but do deal with things as they arise with consequences (firm, fair, and consistent) and meaningful discussions. In the old days, “the discipline of the Lord” tended to mean physical punishment for doing wrong. I think it is more general than that and encompasses a wide variety of methods. Speaking of spanking, however, is an issue that needs attention

What is the difference between spanking and child abuse? Too many modernists believe that all spanking is abusive. They claim studies prove that spanking leads to future violent behavior and drug abuse. What they conveniently do NOT tell us is that those studies are based on abusive parents who beat their kids without mercy. I’ve seen no studies based on what I would call proper spanking. The Bible does NOT say, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” It does say, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24). So I believe that corporal punishment with young children is not abusive. Proper spanking, however, needs these parameters:

1) do not spank just out of anger (we must control ourselves),
2) do not hit hard enough to cause bruising,
3) do not use objects that can maim or do severe physical damage, i.e. belt, especially with a metal buckle,
4) limit the number of hits to two or three,
5) do not keep threatening punishment without follow-through,
6) never used closed fists,
7) never make contact to the face or yank on their arms – God did give “extra padding” on the rear end,
8) set an age limit to use spanking (this is subjective, but I think the limit should be around the age of 10),
9) after the child calms, talk about what they did wrong, encourage them to admit the wrong, seek your forgiveness and give it to them, reminding them how much you love them,
10) do not use spanking all the time for every infraction, have other approaches for discipline such as a “time out” area, activity restrictions, or a stern and meaningful talk.

Some believe that using an object such as a wooden spoon (or sawed off hockey stick handle) :-), is better than making direct physical contact because the child will equate the pain or punishment to the object and not resent the parent as much. I don’t know if this is true. I do respect that line of thinking, however, as the Scripture does mention using an object. I used my hand sometimes and sometimes the stick. But this approach was rare. Before using the stick, we would count to 3. If bad behavior did not cease by 3, they got the stick – not too hard, just enough to make it unpleasant. After a few weeks all we had to do is count to 1 or 2 and the bad behavior stopped, so the stick was a last resort most of the time, and did not stay in use more than a couple of years.

Funny story: One time our son deserved the stick but I thought to make a teachable moment out of it. So I called my wife into the room and told her to give me the stick punishment that our son deserved. This way I could demonstrate what Jesus had done for us. Well…my wife struck me harder and more often than 3 hits! I finally had to tell her to stop! Several friends of mine are still laughing about this story.

v5-9: Some misinterpret this as the Bible advocating slavery. U.S. historical slavery is not what the Bible is talking about. The U.S. system was often cruel, harsh, and showing little or no respect for human life. Some whites, aided by evolutionary thought, believed blacks were not fully evolved into humans therefore were not equal to whites. The Bible uses the term “slaves” as being man-servants. These were people who owed money and worked off their debt, then became independent (free). For this situation, these verses tell masters to treat their “slaves” properly and that God sees all. So do not allow anyone to tell you that the Bible endorses the black slavery of our history. The historical fact is that it was Bible-believing Christians who started the movement against that horrible situation.

v11-12: Reveals that our struggle is not against flesh and blood (people, isms, countries, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, spouses :-), etc). Our struggle is against Satan and all his demonic powers and demons that rail against us, especially God’s kids. It further reveals that these powers have schemes against us.

v13-18: So this maps out our strategy against the real enemy: Put on the full armor of God by way of these steps:

1) Stand firm with Truth from the Scriptures – this will help us to resist temptations
2) Live a righteous life – this will be a breastplate to protect our “vital organs”
3) Be concerned with sharing Jesus Christ with others – this reflects proper preparation by the Spirit
4) Have faith in Jesus – this will pour water on the flaming missiles sent by demons toward us (external situations or our thought-life)
5) Know that you are saved and are a child of the Most High – this will be a helmet to protect a vital organ and our thought-life
6) Know the Scriptures – this will be our sword in order to neutralize our enemies when they come against us – just as Jesus did with Satan on the Mount of Temptation – He quoted Scripture to repel him.
7) Be a consistent praying believer – this will keep us close to God’s Spirit and keep us alert to the real important things of this life.

We believers are smack dab in the middle of a supernatural, spiritual war and we are either fighting the proper way or we are retreating in defeat.

v20: We are all representatives of Jesus while on this earth.