Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sin No More

Ephesians 4 Part 2


Dogmatic: Adjective; Inclined to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true: “he gives his opinion without trying to be dogmatic”. Synonyms: opinionated (conceitedly assertive in one’s opinions), doctrinal (being concerned with a belief or set of beliefs taught by a church), peremptory (Insisting on immediate attention or obedience in a brusquely imperious way), pragmatic (to deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical (actual doing) rather than theoretical considerations).

 I laid this out for two reasons. First, I did so because the remainder of Ephesians 4, especially its latter half, speaks directly about how to live the new life in Christ. Paul uses definitive terms here, about what we used to be, and what we must no longer be, and how we must walk. He has, in short, laid down principles as incontrovertibly true, which leads to my second reason. Did you notice the tone of the synonyms? Two of them, doctrinal and pragmatic, are positive, even complimentary, whereas to be opinionated implies conceit, which is arrogance, or excessive pride in one’s self, and to be peremptory implies being rough, rude, coarse, or harsh, in a both domineering and overbearing way. Do you suppose that anyone under the sound of his voice or that of the one reading the letter to Ephesus aloud applied any of those negative tones when they considered how “dogmatic” Paul sounded?

 I had cause to wonder that because when I spoke about these things and asked questions of an ordained minister whom I deeply respect, I was given the label of dogmatic. I heard the word 4 more times in the course of that conversation, and it was not until I stared at the word and its meaning that I realized beyond any doubt, despite any hope to the contrary, that it was not at all intended as either doctrinal or pragmatic in the conversation’s context. I understood the word to mean what most people mean when they say it derisively; opinionated, with the darker shadings of conceited and arrogant implied if not directly spoken.

 I give thanks and praise to God for this, because despite all suggestions to the contrary, the thing which I am standing by as incontrovertibly true is not anything so flimsy as my opinion, but the very Word of God itself, while the man applying the label to my forehead went on to himself dogmatically opine at length about not Scripture, but regurgitated teaching. When I asked for Scripture supporting his assertions--asked to be pointed in the Bible to what he was saying to me, he simply said, “Keep reading,” and deployed the carefully wielded stiletto of “we need to all be careful to strike a balance between our zeal and our knowledge”, which was just about as nice an insult, of the “you are quite the driven ignoramus” variety, as I have ever heard, let alone actually received.

 Again, I give thanks to God, because this caused me, once I got over myself and calmed down, to carefully consider whether or not he was actually right. Self examination confirmed that what I seek is for whatever I believe, whatever my opinion is, to be perfectly aligned with whatever God’s opinion is, because His opinion is the only one that matters. This is what is at the foundation of the problem we face. The time honored teachings of men are most often believed over “Thus it is written” where the two differ, because the former gives the flesh we are to crucify room to breathe, while the latter contains the teaching of Christ to utterly reject the nature of our flesh and put it visibly to death. Not everyone who identifies themselves as brother or sister in the Lord actually believes that what is written in the Word of God is incontrovertibly true. Each one of us has our own particular struggle in this walk, but every one of those struggles boils down to what James said our struggles are; we want and we don’t have, and to boot, especially in this country, we are entitled to the pursuit of that thing, whatever it happens to be, if it makes us happy. I encourage us each to examine ourselves and look at what the Bible is saying, and answer what the LORD is saying in His Word about how we are to live in Him and what it means if we are not.

 The remainder of this chapter falls under this umbrella. This is how we live this new life in Christ—by the grace given to each one of us.

When He ascended on high,
He took prisoners into captivity;

 Now I’ve heard people say verses 8-10 mean that Jesus went into Hell itself and took the keys of death and Hell from Satan, or just the realm of the dead, which we understand to be “under” the Earth, but closer study shows that this does not mean either of those things. This means, namely, the Earth. In other words, to say the Lord ascended implies that first He had to descend down here, from Heaven to Earth. It is what Jesus said of Himself to Nicodemus in John 3:13; “No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven — the Son of Man.” Lower parts is reference to the condition that Jesus came here to live among people when He descended from Heaven; not that of a king possessed of earthly wealth and the subjugation of nations as we know it here, but a lower station, in the form of a slave. Paul admonishes us to assume that same attitude.

 The reason for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for caring for and teaching the members of Christ’s body is to build up that Body. In verse 13, that word “unity”, it’s the same one we learned about last week in verse 3, the harmony from sharing likeness of nature with the Lord Jesus in lieu of our own nature. The goal is to evangelize, pastor, and teach until we all achieve harmony from sharing likeness of nature with the Lord, both in the faith and in the knowledge gained through firsthand relationship with Jesus. Remember, this can not be done while we are living in accordance with our own nature. We can not be ourselves and do this. The one that lives according to his or her own nature, following the inclinations of his or her own flesh and thoughts, is already identified earlier in this letter to Ephesus as the child of wrath, while the one granted grace to crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts and instead enjoys the harmony from sharing the Lord’s nature, of faithful obedience to His Father, is the child under this umbrella of grace which Paul is describing. We become mature adults in Christ, then, and are no longer gullible to trickery and outright lies as children often are.

 Speaking the truth in agápē, not brotherly love, but the love that God prefers, we are to grow in every way into Christ, who is the head and decision maker of His body. Each portion of it has it purpose and importance. Can each individual part of that body properly work if it is following a nature different from that of the Lord, who is the head—if it is following the inclinations of its own flesh and thoughts?

 No. To do so is to operate as a rogue entity, like cancer. It is the Lord’s nature that the members of His body share in harmony with one another, not their own nature. Our own nature is to be dead; crucified with Christ. The life we share in harmony with Him is His life. His nature. We are therefore to walk as He walked, without excuse.

 We are to walk as He did, not as “we do”. We, our nature, is to be the past, yielded up in living sacrifice. He, Jesus, the Master’s nature, is to be our present.

 From here through the remainder of the chapter, Paul spells the new life in Christ in detail that every person could understand. No high concepts, just plain application.

 First there is the prohibition against walking as everyone in the world walks, and Paul calls the Lord Himself as witness to affirm the statements he is about to make. That’s what the words mean when he says in verse 17;

 Paul is saying that the thoughts of the Gentiles are without any meaningful, lasting purpose, that they are vain and empty.

 Last week, I said that every instance in the Bible where God allows people to have things which do not honor Him has been cause for those people to fall upon their faces and cry out to Him for mercy when all is said and done. The very next day, the same sex marriage ban is stricken down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

When His chosen, called out people, chose to violate God’s commands in the Old Testament, to abandon His ways in favor of the ways and false gods of the Canaanites, and rebelled against the son of King Solomon, Rehoboam, God showed implacable patience. They were going to pay in blood for what they had done, just as all sin is paid for, and the process would ultimately take generations to bear out. Rehoboam even assembled an enormous army to force the rebelling Israel to reunify the kingdom under one king, and God said through His prophet, send them all home, because I have done this. The people got worse, and worse, and worse, and the LORD granted grace to a few of David’s descendants to repent and turn the people back to God, while most of the kings that sat on David’s throne compounded the sins of their fathers and led the people to more and more corruption, while God let out the noose, until the worship of another god was done even in the Temple complex itself.


Jeremiah 15 details how God pulled that noose tight; how completely *done* He was with His people. God is speaking to Jeremiah;


those destined for the sword, to the sword.

Who will show sympathy toward you?

so I have stretched out My hand against you

The Kingdom of Judah, the last remnant of the original 12 tribes, was about to be taken away to Babylon. The last sight of Zedekiah, its last king, would be to watch his sons put to death before having his own eyes cut out, and led blind through the gates of the conquering city. Anyone that wasn’t taken captive along with the royal family was either put to the sword or left to starve to death within Jerusalem’s walls.

Despite the warnings from the prophets, the people did not turn from their ways. A nation that believed itself to be supreme despite its size in the known world, filled with pride in itself, placing abomination where worship of the Living God once took place--just like another nation I could mention.

 This took us from Ephesians a little, but it certainly bore mentioning.

 Back to it, at verse 20.

20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, 21 assuming you heard about Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus. 22 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires;

 Look at the tense of that. The former way of life, the old corrupted self; is all past tense. You took it off. It means that you no longer wear *you*, whatever you happen to be.

In verse 25 Paul brings out specific examples of things which bring discord to the Body, and are therefore sin.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” If we speak lies, and claim His Name as His followers, we are not acting as members of His Body, of branches grafted into the Vine, but are rogue elements, cancer, branches bearing fruit of the flesh and not the Spirit. Those get cut off and burned. There is no room for struggling, for lying when it suits us. Have mercy, LORD God. Lying was an activity put away by the one granted grace to live in You. One lies to escape truth, and You are the Truth. We can’t be a part of Your Body, in harmony with the nature of the One Who never ceases to obey His Father, while doing the things Your Father said He hates, Lord Jesus. We can’t be healthy flesh and cancer at the same time, Lord. Have mercy upon me.

The Greek word here for “being angry”, orgizò, is defined as positive when inspired by God, and always negative when inspired from the flesh. The focus of sinful anger is the offender, while anger inspired by God focuses on what was actually done and the moral implications of it.

As Cyril has said regarding this verse, this is an example of a gift, used selfishly when the holder of the gift followed the inclinations of his thoughts, now turns that gift to the obedience of the law of Christ once the Lord’s nature is taken on in harmony with His people, unified within His body.

 The word for grieve, pronounced loo-peh’-o is deeply significant. In context here it means we are not to offend the Holy Spirit, but the word itself refers to deep, emotional pain, severe sorrow. The word contains such intensity that it is even used to convey a mother’s childbirth pain. It is the very word used in the Septuagint to describe in Genesis what God tells Eve she would have to endure as a result of her part in the sin against God.

Where the labeler of the term “dogmatic” and I differed in all of this was in what I perceived, perhaps falsely, as his ready acceptance that we will sin and can do nothing to prevent it in this life. And while I see the provision of grace for our sin, I see no provision for willful sin within the Bible other than exposure as counterfeit in the faith, and separation from God, which is eternal death. I would very much like for us as a Fellowship to talk about this, because Ephesians 4, and more places in the Bible than I can presently count, leave no allowance for willful sin, let alone permit us to accept it as a constant companion. As an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul was explicit that we are not saved by our actions, desires, or efforts, but by God’s merciful grace alone, so we can boast only in Christ, who made that grace possible. But he also explicitly said that we can not live in sin that grace may abound, because, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” and that the present tense of the flesh “with its affections and lusts”, our old self, was to be crucified with our Lord Jesus.

All of Romans 6 I offer for our consideration of this matter, to illustrate what I mean. ESPECIALLY verse 6.

15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  Absolutely not! 16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves,  you are slaves of that one you obey — either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin,  you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, 18 and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 19 I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. 21 So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of?  For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification  — and the end is eternal life! 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.



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