Fairview Baptist Church
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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014
Theme: Connected: My Life in
What This Study Is About:
Connected in Christ
Connected in Unity
Connected in Growth
Connected Through Words
Connected in Service
Connected Through Prayer
is a given, but staying unified takes work.
Accept Each Other With Humility (Eph. 4:1-2)
To Keep Unity (Eph. 4:3)
Is Built On The Oneness of God (Eph. 4:4-6)
OF FOCAL PASSAGE:
is the perfect balance between doctrine and duty. The first three chapters
deal with doctrine, the believers’ spiritual blessings in Christ. The
last three chapters focus on the church’s responsibility to live in
unity, variety, maturity, purity, and victory. We learn from Paul’s
balanced perspective the need for both orthodoxy (right belief) and
orthopraxy (right living).
have suggested that the pivotal verse of the entire letter—indeed, the
key that unlocks its structure—is 4:1. It brings together the
themes of chapters 1-3 and in a stirring appeal announces Paul’s
emphasis of chapters 4-6. The church’s privileged position and
calling carries with it weighty responsibilities. Paul exhorted the church
to worthy living. He emphasized the character and effort required for such
exemplary living (4:1-3). Then with characteristic Trinitarian emphasis
the apostle claimed the church could so live because it is energized by
the Spirit, established by the Lord, and empowered by the Father.
Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David
S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
There is an excitement inherent in
championship games, but when it is a team with only average talent that
wins, the excitement is even greater. Talent has a role in winning a game,
but what can really make a difference is when the individual players work
together as a single unit, a team. This principle is all the more critical
when we’re talking about the life and ministry of the church. The Holy
Spirit empowers believers to work together in complete unity.
The Herschel Hobbs
Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern
Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Each Other With Humility (Eph. 4:1-2)
1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the
calling you have received, 2 with all humility
and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another
To Keep Unity (Eph. 4:3)
3 diligently keeping the unity
of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.
is the source of unity?
is our part in keeping the unity of the
is this important to the well-being of the church?
does the word diligently mean?
does the word imply when applied to keeping
the unity of the Spirit?
you think this word helps a believer stay focused on their behavior?
Why, or why not?
would you describe the peace that bind us?
should being at peach with God affect being at peace with one another?
Do you believe that “accepting one another in
love” (v. 2) is the requirement for “diligently keeping the unity of the
Spirit” (v. 3)? Why, or why not?
What do you think most often erodes unity and
thwarts teamwork in the church?
would you describe the effect that gossip and unforgiveness has on the unity with a
How should a congregation deal with this kind of problem within its body?
Why does maintaining unity within the body of the church require so much
Lessons in Eph. 4:3:
must work to keep the unity the Spirit brings.
peace Christ gives brings about unity.
Is Built On The Oneness of God (Eph. 4:4-6)
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were
called to one hope, at your calling—5 one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one
God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
do you think the number one is so
important that Paul used it seven times in these verse?
what one hope were you called?
do you think Paul’s emphasis on the number “one” tells us about the
importance of unity?
are the seven factors Paul pointed out that make for unity in the church?
would you define each?
would you explain the role of each “one” of these factors in building church
do the last three phrases in verse 6 (above all and through all and in all) tell
us about God’s relationship to creation?
you think these three phrases should have an impact on the relationship He wants
with us? If so, why?
would you explain these seven elements of church unity to a new member?
Since churches are made up of a diverse body of believers, how am I to
maintain an attitude of unity?
How have you seen Christians who differ from
one another practice unity?
The Spirit within us is our guarantee of the one hope
we share, how do we utilize that same Spirit to maintain unity?
What steps can we take to model unity in our church and community?
Lessons in Eph. 4:4-6:
working in believers, enables them to become one body, the church.
call God “Father, Son and Spirit,” He is three in one.
of God is the foundation for unity in the church.
The study in this session reminds us all that unity is the
responsibility of each member of the body—the church.
It reminds us that unity is a matter of the heart, our attitudes,
and the work of the Holy Spirit. It
is the Spirit that makes us one; it is our responsibility by the power of
the Spirit dwelling within us to stay as one!
There is an old saying:
“It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.”
When it comes to church unity,
that “somebody” includes all of us.
As you think about the truths from this study on church unity, how is
your attitude toward promoting and/or maintaining unity within your
church? What is your role?
Do you see yourself as “one” in the Spirit of unity? Or are you
prone to gossip and/or unforgiveness?
On a scale of 1 (not much) to 10 (very), how active are you in
promoting and/or maintaining your church unity?
Are you as active as you should be?
If not, ask God to guide you to a more active role.
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the
center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction,
Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Focal Passage from three different translations of
King James Version: Ephesians 4:1-6:
1 I therefore, the prisoner
of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are
called, 2 With all lowliness and
meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is
one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Version: Ephesians 4:1-6:
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to
live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in
love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity
of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There
is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were
called—5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
New Living Translation: Ephesians 4:1-6:
1 Therefore I, a prisoner
for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you
have been called by God. 2 Always be humble
and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s
faults because of your love. 3 Make every
effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with
peace. 4 For there is one body and one
Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6
and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (NLT)
Accept Each Other
With Humility (Eph. 4:1-2)
Strive To Keep Unity (Eph. 4:3)
Unity Is Built On The Oneness of God (Eph.
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
“Believer’s Bible Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Eph. 4:1-6:
The Unity of the Church (4:1-6)
The opening of chapter 4 marks the
principal transition of the entire Epistle. As is his method in other writings,
Paul turns from the doctrinal to the practical. It must not be imagined,
however, that the break is complete. Theology is not left behind but interwoven
with the moral exhortations that make up the bulk of chapters 4-6. Nor does
the liturgical style, so apparent in chapters 1-3, disappear altogether.
The predominant hortatory element may reflect the content and method of Paul’s
sermons set here in a context of praise and worship. It is highly significant
that the first item on the agenda is the need for Christians to live together in
love and unity.
4:1. Does the retrospective
“then” (oun) connect only with Ephesians 3:20, 21 or with
what precedes those verses? Some consider that the whole doctrinal section is
under review, but it is more probable that Paul has in mind certain references
in chapters 1-3 to spiritual privileges and the Christian’s calling (3:6, 12, 14-19;
cf. 1:18; 4:4).
It is “as a prisoner for the Lord” (cf. Eph
3:1, 6:20) that Paul makes his appeal. The verb (parakaleo; NIV,
“urge”) can mean either to entreat or to exhort: in this case it is the
latter. What the apostle urges is that the Ephesians may lead the sort of life
that matches their Christian vocation. “Worthy” (axios) is literally
“bringing up the other beam of the scales” and hence indicates equivalence (TDNT,
1:379). Paul is insisting that there shall be a balance between profession and
practice. So he provides a criterion by which possible courses of action can be
weighed. Christians will always seek to do what is most in keeping with their
vocation. By definition it is a calling they have received (literally, “with
which they were called”)—not one they have acquired by self-effort. Those
who share such a divine call constitute the church, the called-out company (ekklesia).
4:2. The apostle now
specifies four graces that evidence this essential proportion between calling
and character: humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. These are all
qualities necessary for good relations with others in the Christian community
and beyond. The word for humility (tapeinophrosyne) occurs five times in
Paul and only once elsewhere in the NT. The adjective and verb are found in LXX.
In classical Greek, tapeinos is a derogatory term suggesting
low-mindedness and groveling servility. The adjective was redeemed by the gospel
to represent a distinctively Christian virtue, and this euphonious noun was
coined to stand over against the admired high-mindedness of the heathen. Linked
with humility is gentleness (prautes) or considerateness. The element of
restraint is included so that it denotes controlled strength and not supine
Patience (makrothymia) or clemency is a
characteristic of God himself. It can mean steadfastness in the endurance of
suffering but more often in the NT it describes reluctance to avenge wrongs. It
is to be displayed to other Christians and to everyone else (Rom 12:10, 18).
Patience finds its expression in loving forbearance (Col 3:18). To bear with
another (literally, “hold him up”) is to put up with his faults and
idiosyncracies, knowing that we have our own. Love is a recurring theme in
Ephesians. The four graces Paul recommends here are all aspects of love and
exemplified to perfection in Christ (Philippians 2:2, 5).
4:3. The absence of these
qualities may jeopardize Christian unity. That is why Paul presses his readers
to exert all their powers to maintain the oneness in Christ that binds all
believers to each other because they are bound by him and to him. The verb (spouclazontes)
suggests difficulty and a resolute determination to overcome it. It is assumed
that unity between Christians already exists as given in Christ (Eph 2:13-18) by
the Spirit. The “one Spirit” (v. 4) is the agent of unity. What Paul
envisages is not “a vague spiritual identity, but rather a profound oneness
made possible by God’s Spirit” (Johnston, p. 18).
“Peace” is the clasp that ensures that this
God-given unity will not fall apart. The “bond” (syndesmos)
strengthens rather than hampers. In Colossians 2:19 Paul uses it with
reference to the ligaments of the body and in Colossians 3:14 figuratively
of the love that holds Christians together.
4:4. The reasons why those
who belong to Christ should be eager to preserve their unity are now supplied in
a crescendo of nouns. In three groups of three items each, Paul’s thought
ascends from the realization of unity in the Spirit to the focus of unity in the
Son and thence to the source of unity in the Father.
“One body” depicts the church as a single
visible community. It is not simply a mystical concept. Its unity is
recognizable in that Jews and Gentiles are now seen to be reconciled in Christ.
In the pagan world there were many religious cults to choose from. Christians,
on the other hand, were all members of one body.
“One Spirit” indwells the body of Christ. By
him the body lives and moves (1Cor 12:13). The Spirit is its soul; apart from
him it cannot exist. The same Spirit fell on the Jews at Pentecost and on the
Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. The “one Spirit” who has already spanned
this widest of all gulfs will bring together all other diverse groups within the
The Holy Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance
(Eph 1:14) and so he is the guarantor of the “one hope” to which we are
called (Eph 1:18; 2:12). This is not the hope that stems from the calling
but the hope that belongs to the call (v. 1). It is, of course, the hope of
sharing Christ’s glory at the end of the age (1 John 3:2). There is no
differentiation between Jewish and Gentile Christians. This eschatological
expectation is entertained equally by all.
4:5. The second trio of
unities is related to the “one Lord” or master to whom all Christians owe
their allegiance. The three expressions may well be intended to convey a single
idea, as Scott has surmised, i.e., “one Lord in whom we all believe and in
whose name we are baptized” (p. 204). Certainly Christ is central. He is the
sole Head of his body the church. Christians are only such through trusting him
and acknowledging his name. The pagan world spawned many lords. Christianity has
only one whose claim is absolute. That is why believers cannot call anyone else
Lord even to escape death.
“One faith” in the
one Lord unites all true believers. Faith here is personal commitment to Christ,
yet it is not purely subjective. It involves a recognition of who he is as Son
of God and Savior of men. It is thus “one allegiance and one profession
“One baptism” is the external seal of
incorporation into the body of Christ. Falling as it does in the second triad
(related to Christ) and not in the first (related to the Spirit), it appears to
indicate water baptism and not primarily the baptism with the Spirit of which
water baptism is the sign. Baptism is regarded as the sacrament of unity. In the
Christian church baptisms are not multiplied as with the Jews (Heb 6:2). There
are not even two baptisms—one of John and one of Jesus. There is “one
baptism” symbolizing identification with Christ in his death and resurrection,
sealing with the Spirit, and incorporation into the body of Christ, so that all
Christians become one person in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:13; 2:5, 6; 3:15).
Baptism is one because it makes one. It provides the evidence that all
Christians, without discrimination as to color, race, sex, age, or class, share
the grace of Christ. If we ask why Paul does not at this point mention the other
dominical sacrament, that of the Lord’s Supper (cf. “one bread” in 1Cor
10:17), the answer may be that he regards the eucharist not as a prerequisite of
unity but an expression of it.
4:6. The last in the
ascending scale (though the first in terms of cause) is the Father. As Zerwick
(p. 104) points out, he is not associated with other unities like the one Spirit
and the one Lord. He stands alone. The triple note, which is still to be found,
merely divides up his modes of action. There is “one God” not many as in
pagan culture (1Cor 8:5, 6). He is the “Father of all” with particular
reference to his redemptive paternity. Yet his creative fatherhood is not
entirely ruled out in view of what follows.
If the first “all” is exclusively personal,
the rest are not necessarily so. It looks as if Paul now regards the body of
Christ in its cosmic aspect (as in Eph 1:23). God reigns “over” (epi)
all in his transcendent sovereignty. He works “through” (dia) all in
his creative activity. He dwells “in” (en) all by reason of his
The trinitarian structure of vv. 4, 5
bears out the assumption that here we have an incipient creed. It was on the
basis of such biblical passages that the historic affirmations of faith were
developed. The reiteration of “one” distinguishes Eastern from Western
creeds (the Nicene Creed has “I believe in one God the Father Almighty”).
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Bible Commentary: Eph. 4:1-6
Appeal for Unity in the Christian Fellowship (4:1-6)
4:1. There is a major break
at this point in Ephesians. The previous chapters have dealt with the
Christian's calling. In the last three chapters, he is urged to walk worthy
of his calling. The position into which grace has lifted us was the
dominant theme up to now. From here on it will be the practical outworking of
that position. Our exalted standing in Christ calls for corresponding godly
conduct. So it is true that Ephesians moves from the heavenlies in chapters 1-3,
to the local church, to the home, and to general society in chapters 4-6. As
Stott has pointed out, these closing chapters teach that "we must cultivate
unity in the church, purity in our personal lives, harmony in our homes and
stability in our combat with the powers of evil."
For the second time Paul refers to himself as a prisoner—this
time as a prisoner of the Lord. Theodoret comments: "What the world
counted ignominy, he counts the highest honor, and he glories in his bonds for
Christ, more than a king in his diadem."
As one who was imprisoned as a result of
faithfulness and obedience to the Lord, Paul exhorts his readers to walk
worthy of their calling. He does not command or direct. With
tenderness and gentleness he appeals to them in the language of grace.
The word, walk, is found seven times in
this Letter (2:2, 10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15); it describes a person's entire
lifestyle. A worthy walk is one that is consistent with a Christian's
dignified position as a member of the Body of Christ.
4:2. In every sphere of life,
it is important to show a Christlike spirit. This consists of:
Lowliness—a genuine humility
that comes from association with the Lord Jesus. Lowliness makes us
conscious of our own nothingness and enables us to esteem others better than
ourselves. It is the opposite of conceit and arrogance.
Gentleness—the attitude that
submits to God's dealings without rebellion, and to man's unkindness without
retaliation. It is best seen in the life of Him who said, "I am gentle and
lowly in heart." Wright comments:
What an astonishingly wonderful statement! The
One who made the worlds, who flung the stars into space and calls them by name,
who preserves the innumerable constellations in their courses, who weighs the
mountains in scales and the hills in a balance, who takes up the isles as a very
little thing, who holds the waters of the ocean in the hollow of His hand,
before whom the inhabitants of the earth are as grasshoppers, when He comes into
human life finds Himself as essentially meek and lowly in heart. It is not that
He erected a perfect human ideal and accommodated Himself to it; He was
Longsuffering—an even disposition
and a spirit of patience under prolonged provocation. This has been illustrated
as follows: Imagine a puppy and a big dog together. As the puppy barks at the
big dog, worrying and attacking him, the big dog, who could snap up the puppy
with one bite, patiently puts up with the puppy's impertinence.
Bearing with one another in love—that is, making
allowance for the faults and failures of others, or differing personalities,
abilities, and temperaments. And it is not a question of maintaining a façade
of courtesy while inwardly seething with resentment. It means positive love to
those who irritate, disturb, or embarrass.
to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In forming the church,
God had eliminated the greatest division that had ever existed among human
beings—the rift between Jews and Gentiles. In Christ Jesus these distinctions
were abolished. But how would it work out in their life together? Would there
still be lingering antagonisms? Would there be a tendency to form a "Jewish
Church of Christ" and a "Church for the Nations?" To guard
against any divisions or smoldering animosities, Paul now pleads for unity among
They should give diligence to keep the unity
of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has made all true believers one in
Christ; the Body is indwelt by one Spirit. This is a basic unity
that nothing can destroy. But by quarreling and bickering, believers can act as
if it were not so. To keep the unity of the Spirit means to live at peace
with one another. Peace is the ligament which binds the members of the
Body together in spite of their wide natural differences. A common reaction when
differences arise is to divide and start another party. The spiritual reaction
is this: "In essentials, unity. In doubtful questions, liberty. In all
things, charity." There is enough of the flesh in every one of us to wreck
any local church or any other work of God. Therefore, we must submerge our own
petty, personal whims and attitudes, and work together in peace for the
glory of God and for common blessing.
of magnifying differences, we should think of the seven positive realities which
form the basis of true Christian unity.
One body. In spite of
differences in race, color, nationality, culture, language, and temperament,
there is only one body, made up of all true believers from Pentecost to
the Rapture. Denominations, sects, and parties hinder the outworking of this
truth. All such man-made divisions will be swept away when the Savior returns.
Therefore, our watchword at the present time should be, "Let names and
sects and parties fall, and Jesus Christ be all in all."
One Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who indwells each
believer individually (1 Cor. 6:19) also indwells the Body of Christ (1 Cor.
One hope. Every member of the
church is called to one destiny—to be with Christ, to be like Him, and to
share His glory endlessly. The one hope includes all that awaits the
saints at the Return of the Lord Jesus and thereafter.
Lord. "For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on
earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God,...
and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we
live" (1 Cor. 8:5, 6; see also 1 Cor. 1:2.)
One faith. This is the Christian faith, the body
of doctrine "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), and
preserved for us in the NT.
One baptism. There is a twofold
sense in which this is true. First, there is one baptism by the Spirit,
by which those who trust Christ are placed in the body (1 Cor. 12:13). Then
there is one baptism by which converts confess their identification with
Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. Though there are different modes of
baptism today, the NT recognizes one believers' baptism, in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. By being baptized, disciples
express allegiance to Christ, the burial of their old self, and a determination
to walk in newness of life.
God. Every child of God recognizes one God and Father of all the
redeemed, who is:
Above all—He is the supreme
Sovereign of the universe.
Through all—He acts through all,
using everything to accomplish His purposes.
In you all—He dwells in all
believers, and is present in all places at one and the same time.
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Eph. 4:1-6
4:1. This chapter begins the
practical section of Ephesians. Paul normally balanced his epistles with a
theological portion and a practical portion. The "therefore" of verse
1 serves as a bridge connecting all the apostle had written up to this point
with what follows.
In the Greek text "beseech" (parakalō) is first in
the sentence for emphasis. Paul was concerned that believers should cross the
bridge from analysis to action, from theology to morality, from Christian faith
to Christian life, from the revelation of doctrine to the development of
practice. He made this very strong appeal as "the prisoner of the
Verses 1-16 describe the unity and diversity of the New Testament Church.
Paul began his exhortation by appealing to the Ephesians to live lives worthy of
the calling God had given them. "Worthy" (axiōs) is an
adverb of manner used with scales. Basically it means "bringing up the
other beam of the scales" or "bringing into equilibrium." It
carries the idea of one thing being the equivalent of another thing. In other
words, a Christian's practice should "weigh as much as" or "be
equivalent to" his profession. If it truly does "weigh as much
as," that person will be doing what the whole Book of Ephesians tells him
4:2. Furthermore, it will be reflected in the three
qualities mentioned in verse 2. The first two, "lowliness and
meekness," refer to a person's attitude toward self. A person with a proper
balance between profession and practice will be humble, will not be full of
haughty pride. A truly humble individual will be in balance, not thinking too
highly of himself, nor, at the other extreme, putting himself down. Such a
person will also be meek, which is the opposite of self-assertion. The third
quality, forbearance, is a social virtue, expressing the ability to be patient
with the weaknesses of other people.
4:3. The absence of these three qualities will
definitely jeopardize Christian unity. Unity does not just happen. Because this
is a present tense idea, we must constantly work at it.
4:4. The apostle then gave the
perfect example of unity—that which is exhibited among the members of the
Trinity. They never disagree. Verse 4 describes the work of the Holy Spirit.
There is one Body, and the Holy Spirit is the One who makes us members of it. As
a result, we share "one hope," an expectant attitude concerning the
second coming of Christ and all the benefits related to it.
4:5. Verse 5 reminds us that there
is only one Lord. When Paul wrote these words, nearly every cult of mystery
religion had its own lord. However, the New Testament has only one Head, the
Lord Jesus Christ, and He is the only means of access into His church.
The term "faith" is used several different ways in the
Scriptures. Sometimes it relates to the subjective placing of confidence in God;
sometimes it refers to the body of doctrine that believers accept; sometimes it
refers to a means of access. The last is the use in this context.
The statement concerning "one baptism" does not deny the
reality of other types of baptism (in water, in the Holy Spirit, in suffering)
but refers to the one baptism without which the others would not be
possible—the baptism into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
4:6. The Father is described as the One who originated
all that verses 4 and 5 describe. The Father is sovereign ("above
all"), the sustainer ("through all"), and the One who gives the
energy for all that happens ("in... all").
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts. Database ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
Humility and gentleness—Along with several other qualities mentioned in
verses 2-3, these two terms describe how you can “walk worthy of the calling
you have received” (v. 1). Whether
we use the word humility, “lowliness”
(KJV), “modesty” or “meekness,”
this term describes persons who have a correct estimation of their value—which
doesn’t mean self-depredation or degradation.
For us as believers, this term reflects the fact that we have turned over
control of our rights and realized our position before God, that everything we
have and are is a gift from God and thus we properly evaluate ourselves.
While related to humility, the
word gentleness or “meekness”
(KJV) stresses the result that a proper valuation of ourselves makes in our
conduct. The gentle or meek person is
not a weak person; on the contrary, he/she exercises strength under control.
For believers, this control belongs to God who exercises it through the
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
A personal quality in which
an individual shows dependence on God and respect for other persons.
Old Testament: The
Old Testament connects the quality of humility with Israel’s lowly experience
as slaves in Egypt—a poor, afflicted, and suffering people (Deut.
26:6). The Hebrew word translated as humility is similar to another
Hebrew word meaning “to be afflicted.” In Old Testament thought, humility
was closely associated with individuals who were poor and afflicted (2 Sam.
What God desires most is not outward sacrifices but a humble spirit
(Psa. 51:17; Mic. 6:8). Such a humble spirit shows itself in several ways:
(1) a recognition of one’s sinfulness before a holy God (Isa. 6:5); (2) obedience
to God (Deut. 8:2); and (3) submission to God (2 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron.
The Old Testament promised blessings to those who were humble: (1) wisdom
(Prov. 11:2); (2) good tidings (Isa. 61:1); and (3) honor (Prov. 15:33).
The experience of many kings indicated that those who humble themselves
before God will be exalted (1 Kings 21:29; 2 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron.
32:26; 33:12, 19). Those who do not humble themselves before God will
be afflicted (2 Chron. 33:23; 36:12). The pathway to revival is the way of
humility (2 Chron. 7:14).
New Testament: Jesus Christ’s life provides the best
example of what it means to have humility (Matt. 11:29; 1 Cor. 4:21; Phil.
2:1-11). Jesus preached and taught often about the need for humility (Matt.
23:12; Mark 9:35; Luke 14:11; 18:14). He urged those who desired
to live by Kingdom standards to practice humility (Matt. 18:1; 23:12).
The person with humility does not look down on others (Matt. 18:4; Luke
14:11). Humility in the New Testament is closely connected with the quality of
“meekness” (Matt. 5:5). While God resists those who are proud, He provides grace
for the humble (Jas. 4:6). Primary in the New Testament is the conviction
that one who has humility will not be overly concerned about his or her prestige
(Matt. 18:4; 23:12; Rom. 12:16; 2 Cor. 11:7).
Paul believed that quality relationships with other people, especially
those who had erred spiritually, hinged on the presence of meekness or
humility (1 Cor. 4:21; Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:25). The New Testament
affirms, as does the Old Testament, that God will exalt those who are humble and
bring low those who are proud (Luke 1:52; Jas 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:6). The
Greek world abhorred the quality of meekness or humility, but the Christian
community believed these qualities were worthy (2 Cor. 10:18; Col. 3:12; Eph.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
Lowliness and meekness: Paul identified these two moral qualities or
attitudes in verse 2 as essential for living in a manner consistent with new
life in Christ. Lowliness and meekness, or
humility and gentleness (HCSB), were not popular attributes in the Greek culture.
Generally, they were regarded as traits of weakness.
In Christ the qualities are redefined as marks of spiritual strength.
Such attitudes are learned of Christ and witness to the presence of the
Holy Spirit within the believer.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
A personality trait of
gentleness and humility, the opposite of which is pride. Meekness does
not refer to weakness or passivity but to controlled power. Aristotle described
meekness as the middle position between excessive anger and an excessive lack of
Meekness or gentleness is exemplified by God (2 Sam. 22:36, Ps.
18:35), Moses (Num. 12:1-13), and Jesus (Zech. 9:9, Matt. 11:29, 12:14-21; 21:5).
In the Old Testament the meek were often the poor and the oppressed (Amos
2:7; 8:4; Job 24:4; Ps. 9:18; Pr. 3:34; 16:19). The
Hebrew word translated meek (anaw) means, “wretched, impoverished,
oppressed, in need, bowed over,” but came to mean, “humble, pious.”
The meek receive the special concern of God and are called blessed (Ps.
37:11; Matt. 5:5). God identifies with the poor and oppressed, hears their
pleas, and helps them (Pss. 10:17; 22:26; 25:9; 147:6; 149:4).
The Messiah will also have a special ministry to the meek (Isa. 11:4; 61:1; Luke
Christians are encouraged to be meek (Eph. 4:1-2; Col. 3:12).
Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23) and should mark the
Christian’s attitude toward sinners (Gal. 6:1). Paul was meek with
the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:21). Pastors should be meek and teach
meekness (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2). Christians should
receive God’s Word with meekness (Jas. 1:21). Wisdom is expressed with
meekness (Jas. 3:13). Christian wives can witness to their unbelieving
husbands with their meek spirit (1 Pet. 3:1-4). All Christians should be
prepared to give a defense of their faith in meekness (1 Pet. 3:15).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
unity is founded on each Christian’s commitment to the one God. Common
submission to His person and will should result in a church united in worship,
fellowship, and service. Both this fact, and the conflicting fact of churches
frequently fractured, is the testimony of the NT.
Gospel of John reminds the church that oneness was the Lord’s design for His
followers (John 17:20-23). Jesus’ prayer for every generation of believers was
that “all of them may be one” (John 17:21). This unity with one another
stems from a shared oneness with the Father and Son. The stated intent is that
“the world may believe” in Jesus through the united testimony of His
made a similar point to a church in turmoil. Those in fellowship with God (those
who “walk in the light”) share a resultant fellowship of love (1 John
1:5-7). The absence of this Christlike love, which should characterize the
“light,” is no small matter. A loveless, divisive Christianity is not
Christianity at all. It is a type of heresy (1 John 2:9-11,15,19).
also prayed for unity in the church and often exhorted believers to maintain
oneness. His prayers identify the basis of unity as the one Father, the work of
the one Spirit, and believers’ common bond to Christ (Rom 15:5-6; Eph
4:3-6; Phil 2:1-2). Frequent references to unity reveal both its importance
and the challenge of maintaining it in the church.
is important because it glorifies the Father and the Son. Thus it is appropriate
for believers, and it provides a witness to unbelievers (Rom 5:6-7). Paul’s
actions illustrate how crucial this was to him. His conflict with Peter (Gal
2:11-14), the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), and the offering for the saints in
Jerusalem (2 Cor 8-9) were all attempts both to defend the truth of the gospel
and to maintain the unity of the church.
the church experienced divisions. Selfishness, immaturity, conceit, and an
unforgiving attitude are identified as common, root causes (Rom 15:7; 1 Cor
3:1-4; Phil 2:1-4; Jas 4:1-12). Even apparently mature Christians
could place personal feelings or interests ahead of the good of the gospel and
thus generate divisions. Individuals in conflict could also gather into warring
factions and endanger the life and witness of the church (Acts 6:1-4; Gal
2:11-13; Phil 4:2-3; 3 John 9-10).
were exhorted to recognize these pitfalls and avoid them. They were to emphasize
the church’s common purpose rather than focus on the ambitions of individuals
(John 17:21; Phil 2:2). They were to accept others (forgiving faults and
accepting differences) as Christ had accepted them (Rom 15:7; Col 3:13-14).
Also, like Christ, they were to promote the well-being of others, not narrowly
pursue their own goals (Phil 2:3-4). The true “yokefellow” was exhorted not
only to govern his own actions but also to promote unity where there was
conflict (Phil 4:2-4).
NT makes clear the basis for unity in the body of Christ. Jesus, Paul, John, and
others frequently emphasized its importance and its rewards. The church,
therefore, in every generation bears the responsibility of making unity a
SOURCE: Holman Bible
Handbook; General Editor David S.
Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
A Word Study
Jerry M. Windsor
Windsor is associate professor of preaching, Florida Baptist Theological
College, Graceville, Florida.
I met the girl I would later marry, I told my college roommate that one day I
wanted to marry “a girl like that.” Five
years later, that impression became a reality, but that early encounter was the
beginning of our life together.
shared phone calls, letter, dates, and special events.
One day I saw for sale in a stationary store a special wax seal and all
of the needed attachments to seal letters. I
bought those items and was then able not only to write the one I loved but also
to seal my notes and letters to her with a special personal mark and insignia.
custom of using seals and impressments was an ancient rite that aided in
identifying objects with a mark, letter, sign, or words.
The earliest seal instruments and concepts probably had their start in
the religious world and then spread to secular culture.
Common images such as fish, doves, swords, bows, and ships were used in
Researchers have identified many types of seals, but the
oldest physical seal forms were probably the Babylonian roll seals and seal
cylinders that date back to as early as 3000 B.C.
Artisans cut figures, signs, and marks into the surface of the cylinder,
and the user then rolled the cylinder on damp clay.
By 1300 B.C., the Egyptians were also using a seal ring.
the Biblical Era – Archaeologists
have not identified any royal seals that they can link to a specific Old
Testament king. Yet sealing
documents was both known and practiced in that era.
Personal signet rings, property markings, legal insignias, religious
inscriptions, and special stone cuttings go back before 2000 B.C.2
New Testament uses the word for “seal” 32 times in its noun and verb forms.
John used the word twice in his general writings (John 3:33; 6:27) and 22
times in the Book of Revelation. Matthew
used the word once (27:66) – and Paul 7 times in his epistles.
Our emphasis will be Paul’s use of the word “sealed” in Ephesians
1:13 and 4:30.3
the Book of Ephesians – Paul
expressed the crown and climax of his theology in the Book of Ephesians.
The theology of this book is as grand as salvation itself and is wedded
with moral and ethical demands for holy living.
In Ephesians, Paul blended the story of Jesus with the principles for
successful Christian living. This
moral, ethical, and holy behavior all pours forth from being “sealed” by the
Ephesians 1:13, Paul said that unbelievers become followers of Christ as they
hear the Word of God, believe the Word of God, and then are sealed by the Holy
Spirit. The sealing is part of the
work of the Holy Spirit, who enlightens, guides, and transforms the believer.
4:30 goes further by informing believers about the permanency of the sealing by
the Spirit. There Paul affirmed the
Holy Spirit seals us until “the day of redemption.”
Echoing Jesus’ concept of believers being help firmly in the Father’s
hand (John 10:29), Paul emphasized the enduring security of the believer’s
status in Christ. As a wax seal
confirmed the security of a letter’s contents until that letter was delivered
to the recipient, so the Holy Spirit confirms the believer’s security until he
or she is to be delivered to the Father.
sealing is the gift of the Spirit and is different from gifts of the Spirit.
The prophets predicted the Spirit (Joel 2:28), and Jesus reaffirmed the
coming and work of the Spirit (John 16). Salvation
is attributed to the work of Christ as persons respond in faith.
The sealing is the Holy Spirit’s act of approval, confirmation, and
Some individuals have argued that the Holy Spirit does the
sealing but the seal itself is the act of baptism.
Some individuals who uphold this thought have gone on to say baptism is
the seal and therefore has sacramental or saving powers.
Still others have tried to link Paul’s teachings about baptism with
circumcision. As circumcision was
the external mark of a follower of God under the old covenant, so baptism is the
outward mark (or external “seal”) for the new covenant believer.
Careful study of this argument shows that it leads to a
salvation-by-works theology. The New
Testament, though, teaches believers are baptized because of the remission of
sins and not to gain the remission of sins.
Y. Mullins offered an explanation by saying the Spirit’s sealing is not an
outward sign but more of “a spiritual bestowment.”
He said “the seal is the Holy Spirit.”
Mullins pointed out that things receive “an outward mark, or badge, or
impression, but the Holy Spirit is the appropriate seal for persons.”4
should be careful to note that the sealing is not the guarantee of our spiritual
inheritance; the Holy Spirit is (Eph. 1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit’s seal is the end of the salvation experience, but it
is the front end.
for the “Sealed
sealing is the Holy Spirit’s presence, then some specific teachings about
being sealed cannot be ignored. Four
biblical truths can help enlarge our thinking on being sealed.
the sealing of the Holy Spirit has a specific beginning. Before the Holy Spirit
came to seal the believer, the individual first heard and believed the Word of
God (v. 13). These events occurred before the lost person was incorporated into
Second, the seal of the Holy Spirit is continuous.
God designed this action as part of the believer’s salvation.
Mullins pointed out that the Holy Spirit attended the preaching, hearing,
and believing of the Word. When we
are under conviction because of sin in our lives, the Holy Spirit leads us to
confession and repentance. After we
hear and respond in sincere faith, the Spirit takes up residence in the
believers and is a continuous sign of divine presence within us.5
the seal of the Holy Spirit empowers us. Marcus
Barth in his commentary on Ephesians stated that the Holy Spirit enables us to
do things we could not do on our own. The
Holy Spirit’s presence provides believers more than assurance of salvation and
personal peace of mind. The Holy
Spirit gives believers a mission.6
the seal of the Holy Spirit has ethical implications.
Many first-century Christians in places such as Ephesus were Gentile
converts. They had religious
backgrounds, but were steeped in pagan culture and lifestyles.
Some had yet to align their morals and behavior with their Christian
confession. Paul reminded them that
hearing and believing the gospel also brought the Holy Spirit requirement of the
highest morality in personal and social interactions.7
grieve the Spirit when we sin. But
as believers we are sealed with a view to the final deliverance from all sin on
that day of redemption. Then we will
be in a state of completed redemption and in perfect conformity to the will of
God and the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.8 That state of eternal
bliss is reserved for those persons who bear the mark, the stamp, the seal of
the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Friedrich, ed., Geoffrey
W. Bromiley, trans., vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
Testament Theology, Colin Brown, ed;, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 499-501.
Y. Mullins, Studies in Ephesians (Nashville: The Sunday School Board of
the Southern Baptist Convention, 1935), 37-38, E. Y. Mullins was president of
the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY 1899-1928 and was
president of the Southern Baptist Convention 1921-1924.
Barth, Ephesians (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.,
P. Martin, “Ephesians” in The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 11
(Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), 125-127.
A Word Study
Paul N. Jackson
Jackson is associate professor of Christian Studies, Union University, Jackson,
HIS YEAR OUR NATION
celebrates its 229th year of independence – freedom from the
shackles of servitude and bondage to England.
This celebration of liberation causes me to think of the day I received
Christ and was delivered from the crushing sentence of sin.
I was a 12-year-oldboy at the Venetian Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta,
Georgia in 1968. Also as I wrote
this article, I was preparing a message about the most dramatic biblical example
of liberation – the one Saul of Tarsus experienced on the Damascus road.
That day Jesus unexpectedly intercepted the murderous fanatic and
transformed him into a unwavering herald of the gospel he once tried to destroy.
America’s independence in 1776, my conversion at age 12, and Paul’s
Damascus road encounter are examples of redemption experiences.
conversion event gripped him so deeply that some 20 years later to the church at
Rome he devoted an entire letter to explain God’s redemptive work.1
In this letter we find the word under consideration for this article –
“redemption.” What was the
origin of the word?
Redemption in the Old Testament
theological idea of redemption – of an entity being redeemed – has a rich
heritage. Old Testament writers
described property, animals, persons, and the nation that were all redeemed (or
“bought back”) by the payment of a price.
The concept of a no-cost redemption would have been completely alien to
the people of Israel. Boaz and
Jeremiah, for example, played the role of “kinsman redeemer” involving the
“buying back” of property (Lev. 25:25-28; Ruth 3 – 4; Jer. 32:6-8).
Even though all the first-born males of all livestock belonged to God,
the Old Testament made provisions for buying back donkeys and unclean animals
(ex. 13:13; Num. 18:14-17).
privilege of redemption extended also to individual Israelites.
Each Israelite had to pay a ransom for his life at the time of the
national census. Firstborn sons had
to be redeemed because they belonged to god since the first Passover when the
death angel “passed over” the homes where the lamb’s blood was sprinkled
on the doorposts (Num. 3:40-51). As
another example of redemption, a man would be put to death for his
out-of-control bull goring a neighbor to death, unless an acceptable fine was
paid to the dead man’s family to redeem the owner’s life (Ex. 6:6; Isa.
43:1-4). The exodus event
established an important theological foundation for believers’ later
understanding of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection.
Redemption in the New Testament
the New Testament the idea of “redemption” moves from the material to the
spiritual realm. Luke linked two
“redeeming” events – the Old Testament exodus story that described Moses
delivering the Israelites from physical bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt and the New
Testament exodus story of Jesus delivering humanity from spiritual bondage to
sin and Satan through His death on the cross.
Luke 9:28-36 records that Jesus had a conversation on the mount of
transfiguration with Moses and Elijah concerning His death.
The Greek word underlying and referring to Jesus’ coming death
translated as “departure” in verse 31 (NIV) is exodus.
In this sense, Jesus functioned as a “second Moses” who redeemed from
death to life those who believed in Him. Later
Luke recorded Jesus’ promise of believers’ redemption “drawing near”
the word “redemption” in Romans 3:24 is a term that emerged from the slave
world and meant “liberation through payment of a price.”2 In the
second and first centuries B.C., “redemption” often referred to the
“ransoming” of prisoners of war, slaves, and condemned criminals.
Paul thus presented “Christ’s
death as a ‘ransom,’ a ‘payment’ that takes the place of the penalty for
sins ‘owed’ to God by all people of God.”3 Jesus said, “for
even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his
life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NIV, italics mine).
death is foundational for all redemption talk in the New Testament.
Humans are in spiritual captivity, and the only way we can be freed or
redeemed is if a price is paid for us. This
redemption required nothing less that the death of the Messiah.
3:19-26 is embedded in a section of Paul’s letter in which the apostle
unpacked the characteristics of the gospel of God’s grace.
Some Christians consider the Romans 3 text the most important passage the
apostle worte.4 After Paul in verse 23 proclaimed the whole world,
whether Jew or Gentile, guilty before God because of sin, he used a legal term
“justified” (v. 24) to paint a picture of a courtroom in which God, the
judge, pronounces the guilty sinner innocent. How can this be?
Why do the guilty go free? Paul
indicated the mode of being made right with God as “freely by his grace,”
and then followed that with the phrase “through the redemption.” These
phrases help explain the costly means by which this acquitting verdict is made
the Old Testament described people redeemed from serious social situations such
as debt, captivity, slavery, exile, and potential death sentences, Jesus
redeemed us from the greatest threat of all – sin and spiritual death.
Not only did He deliver us from our sins and the curse of the law, but He
also rescued us from all the ill effects of the fall.
In addition, an already/not yet aspect applies to redemption.
All of God’s people are waiting for the “day of redemption” when we
will be made perfect. This includes
our bodies and the whole groaning creation (Rom. 8:18-23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30).
While we are in these temporal, eroding bodies, the Holy Spirit within us
is the seal, guarantee, and firstfruits of our final redemption.
have been redeemed from sin and its lethal effects.
The cost was Christ’s blood (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
The writer of Hebrews echoed the same idea in saying that Jesus
“entered the Most Holy Place once for all . . . by his own blood, Having
obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12, NIV).
In Romans 3:24-25, Paul directly connected this redemption to the blood
redemption carries a final yet huge practical implication for believers.
Christ has undeniable rights over His purchase.
We belong to Him. Jesus has
absolute lordship over the church and each Christian.
Paul reminded the elders in Ephesus that their pastoral care of the
church would be carried out with the utmost seriousness because Jesus purchased
the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
of the huge price Christ paid to buy us back through His death on the cross, we
must exercise discipline and self-control by not becoming slaves to anything or
anybody on this earth, Paul
emphasized that fact to the Corinthian Christians by offering a twofold reason
why they should not engage in sexual immorality: 1) “Do you not know that your
body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?
You are not your own”: 2) “You were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your body”
(1 Cor. 6:19-20). The reality
of our costly redemption prohibits this type of immoral behavior.
can mark the celebration of our country’s political freedom.
But the fireworks fade as the celebration passes.
The cross, however, remains as the enduring symbol of spiritual freedom,
where Christ paid our penalty and we were redeemed by His all-sufficient
sets forth Paul’s “Gospel of Redemption,” and can be outlined as follows:
1. The Need for Redemption (1:18 – 3:20): II. The Provision for Redemption
(3:21 – 8:39); III. The Challenge of Israel within Redemption (chaps. 9 –
11); and IV. The Practical Application of Redemption (chaps. 12 – 16)
Douglas J. Moo, “Romans” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds
Commentary, gen. ed., Clinton E. Arnold, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on
the New Testament (NICNT) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
See Robert H. Mounce, Romans in The New American Commentary (Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1995), 114. Also see
Moo, NICNT, 229-330. Also, this text
in Donald Grey Barnhouse’s Bible had a heart traced over it as he said, “I
am convinced today, after these many years of Bible study, that these verses are
the most important in the whole Bible.” See
D. G. Barnhouse, God’s Remedy, God’s River, vol. 2 (Fincastle, Va:
Scripture Truth Book Co., n.d.),6.
Robert A. Weathers
Weathers is pastor of Meadow Ridge Baptist Church and adjunct professor of
religious studies and philosophy, Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs,
THE FALL OF 2000,
the members of Pleasant Valley Unitarian-Universalist Church in Garland, Texas,
decided to make their worship more “pagan.”
Rather than worship one particular
deity, they expanded their focus, to include various “gods and goddesses.”
They also added the practice of lighting candles to herald the elements
(earth, air, fire, and water) hoping that would help their worship become
“more earth-centered.” Sermons
shifted accordingly, focusing on more natural themes, such as gardening.1
this “pagan” religion a new fad? Not
at all. Pagan worship, characterized
by reverence for the elements of nature, has existed for thousands of years.
In fact, paganism conflicted with Christianity as soon as the earliest
Christians began to evangelize their neighbors.
This conflict was motivated by the striking differences in their
Our worldview is the way we think about the world around
us and interpret the events we experience. All
people see and experience the same world, but not everyone interprets it the
Furthermore, these thought processes
motivate our choices and behavior. Various
influences impact our thought processes, but the most powerful influence on our
worldview is our religion.
centuries, pagans have believed that the events of life are determined by fate
and governed by the forces of nature. The
ancient Greeks embraced this worldview. They
believed that human beings had no free will.
Therefore, they assigned divine status to the forces of nature and sought
to develop beneficial “relationships” with these gods and goddesses.
So, like today’s pagans, the Greeks focused their worship on the
elements of nature. They wanted to
appease these deities and manipulated them, hoping to gain for themselves a
But Christians taught a new worldview.
They preached that God was intimated and personal, as demonstrated in the
life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Life was directed by God, not dictated by fate.
When Paul and his associates evangelized Greek cities, they faced the
daunting challenge of witnessing for Christ in a culture saturated with the
pagan worldview. Ephesus was such a
thought processes dominated Ephesian culture.
Central to the Ephesians’ pagan worship was the goddess Artemis, called
Diana by the Romans. The Greeks
believed that Artemis was a child of Zeus, born from his union with the goddess
Leto. Revered as the mother goddess
of the earth, Artemis was first worshiped as the goddess of the hunt and the
protectress of wildlife, but over time she became associated with fertility.
In the Artemis fertility cult, adherents practiced sacred prostitution in
the temple built in her honor, striving to manipulate the powers of the goddess.
By the time Paul evangelized Ephesus, the temple of Artemis was an
imposing structure. It was four
times as large as the Parthenon in Athens and honored as one of the Seven
Wonders of the World. Her likeness,
a multi-breasted statue believed by the Greeks to have fallen from the divine
realm, met worshipers entering the temple (see Acts 19:35).3
encountered stiff opposition in Ephesus when his preaching began to win converts
for Christ away from the Artemis cult. According
to Act 19:23-41, a silversmith named Demetrius incited a riot against Paul.
He crafted statues of the goddess and sold them to people for their
homes. The defection of worshipers
from paganism to Christ threatened his business, so he decided to persecute
Paul. His efforts failed, however,
when the city clerk dismissed his charges based on the overwhelmingly popular
view of the Ephesians that no other religion could ever dethrone Artemis!
Demetrius was closer to the truth than the city clerk.
Ephesians who followed Christ would have to turn away from their worship
of Artemis. The two represented
incompatible worldviews. Paul taught
that this incompatibility originated in the religious person’s thought
processes. He told the Ephesian
Christians that they would have to abandon their pagan worldview in favor of a
Christian worldview and lifestyle.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he instructed them in this exchange of thought
processes. For instance, in the
passage that begins with Ephesians 4:17, Paul insisted that the way pagans
“live” is an expression of the “futility of their thinking” (NIV).
The term translated “futility” refers to something empty or
meaningless. These meaningless
thought processes were the trademark of unbelievers, who tried to fill the void
of God’s absence with exuberant idolatry (compare Rom. 1:21).
This condition “darkened” their “understanding,” resulting in
spiritual blackout (Eph. 4:18) and a complete lack of moral “sensitivity.”
These pagans, Paul added, demonstrated their “ignorance” by
participating in unholy lifestyles, and they would “indulge in every kind of
impurity, with a continual lust for more” (v. 19, NIV).
Clearly, Paul believed that the corrupting influence of sin had generated
the unholy thought processes that characterized paganism, culminating in the
debauchery exhibited in the cult of Artemis.
However, the Ephesians were able to know Christ because,
before they tried to change their behavior, they had accepted God’s truth in
their minds. They had exchanged
their pagan worldview for the new, Christian worldview.
Consequently, Paul taught, they had been “made new in the attitude of
[their] minds” (vv. 20-23, NIV). The
word translated “attitude” is literally “spirit.”
Our worldview germinates from our spirit, which in turn motivates our
actions. Just as sinful actions
depict a spirit corrupted by sin and separated from Christ, a life of holiness
indicates that a person’s spirit has been made new in Christ (v. 24).
If our thought processes have been purified in Christ, our lifestyle will
manifest God’s holiness.
Paul listed areas of conduct in which the believer’s
lifestyle should reflect a spirit renewed by Christ.
For example, he instructed a Christian should abandon lies, purge the
sinful anger, and relinquish the tendency to steal.
Words should edify other Christians and please God.
All believers should strive for healthy relationships, which includes the
practice of forgiveness, kindness, and compassion (vv. 25-32).4 Paul
considered such behavior a choice, and Christians are to choose to act according
to their new worldview.
You Practicing a Christian Worldview?
pagan worldview was a formidable obstacle in the first century.
That worldview is still advocated today.
But so are many other worldviews that are equally incompatible with the
Christian worldview. Just as with
Paul and the Ephesian believers, today’s Christians should abandon all other
thought processes in favor of a Christian worldview.
We should be easily distinguished by our worldview.
If your actions are determined by your thought processes, can your
neighbors, relatives, and friends tell by your behavior that you are guided by a
Horner, “’Going Pagan’ No Stretch for Dallas Area Church,” The
Greenville News (Saturday, January 13, 2001), 68.
2 L. Russ Bush, A
Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 161.
3 Jack Finegan, Myth and
Mystery: An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World (Grand
Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 161; F. F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set
Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 287.
Snodgrass, The New International Version Application Commentary: The
Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1984), 354-65.
Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2002
What Is The Answer
To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (09/14/14)
Who was king of Judea when Israel
fell to Assyria? Answer next week:
answer to last week’s trivia question (09/07/14) In what city was
Paul and Silas imprisoned during their 2nd missionary journey? Answer: Philippi; Acts 16:12.