Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Turning the Mast Upside Down
We?ve been talking about God?s training program. God wants us, as the body of Christ, to mature?to think, act, and speak like the Lord. He does this in part by giving us men and women that help us know what God is saying (the apostles), know the importance of following His Word (the prophets), spread that Word broadly (evangelists), and understand, follow, and apply that Word in our own lives (pastors & teachers).
The goal is maturity. The Greek word in verse 13 means: ?lacking nothing necessary for completeness?. Our ?stature? or the ?time of life? we are in, is of a mature man (yes, the word ?man? is used in the Greek, not ?human?). Paul isn?t saying we should all be like males. As you know, the body of Christ is referred to as the ?bride? of Christ. So the purpose isn?t male or female?Paul means we are mature, as opposed to children (as in verse 14).
Why is it important for us to cooperate with God?s training program individually so that as the body of Christ our behavior, attitudes, thoughts, and actions become more and more like Jesus and less and less like this age? It?s because of what I mentioned last time?that magnetic pull of the values of this age. Today, instead of a magnet pulling, Paul uses the analogy of wind blowing?but the effect is the same.
There are forces out there that will try to wreck your faith and witness for Christ?forces in man, forces in your mind, and forces in the spiritual realms of wickedness. This part of Ephesians, as well as parts of Chapter 6, talk about how to stand up against those forces.
First, what we are being trained against:
The word ?children? can mean ?infant, little child, or a minor?not yet of age.? How do we know we are infantile in our behavior? If we are 1. Tossed by the waves and 2. Blown about by every ?wind of teaching.?
Paul here uses nautical analogies. In my (limited) experience with sailing I know there are two vital parts of a sailboat other than the sail itself?a rudder and a centerboard. The centerboard keeps the boat from being blown over and the rudder keeps it going in the right direction.
Metaphorically, Paul describes two conditions that will upset the sailboat, and the maturity of the believer. The first is waves. Waves are very powerful and if your boat does not have a rudder, the waves will literally push you around, change your direction, and make it impossible to reach your goal. You use the wind to create forward motion by hitting the sail, but if there is no centerboard, the power of the wind will simply push the boat over instead of forward.
Paul is not talking about wind literally, but about teaching?different teaching than what was passed down by the Apostles. From the first century onward there have been many many ?alternate? teachings to the gospel of Christ as given to us by the Apostles? doctrine. There is asceticism, spiritism, traditionalism, legalism?and many more (Paul outlines these in Colossians). Today we have rationalism as one of the main winds of doctrine against the gospel. Rationalism says that human logic is king and that everything I believe must be proven to me in my senses. It is essentially anti-supernatural.
Anything that draws your mind and beliefs away from the gospel is like a wind or a wave. Paul is saying that your being a part of God?s training program?to learn and apply His Word and allow His Spirit to change the way you speak, think and act into the way Jesus thinks, speaks, and acts?is a way to insulate you from these forces.
The ?wind? Paul talks about moves us away from the gospel. What is the gospel? The Apostle John tells us in one of his warnings against those that bring another teaching:
2 John 7 ?Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.?
Jesus coming in the flesh means ?Jesus, as God, became a real human, died a real death, paid a real price to purchase and cleanse us and as a human was raised from the dead and now runs the universe.? (my words).
There are two ways that teaching contrary to this comes to us: ?human cunning? and ?cleverness in the techniques of deceit?. Basically there are shysters out there who are in it for themselves and make up stories about God in order to fleece people, make themselves more important, or some other human motivation. Along with that, though not mentioned specifically, the language suggests the enemy, Satan, is also behind a good deal of these deceitful practices.
Remember, deceit means you think you are getting the real deal when you are not. Satan is the ultimate con artist. He makes us feel that we are making good choices but we are not and those choices will lead away from reliance on the gospel.
Remember what John said: ?This is the deceiver.?
Jesus said this: John 8:44 ?You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father?s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.?
These are lies that sound like the truth. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:14 describes Satan as an angel of light. The doctrines are like cotton candy?they look really good, smell good, and taste good, but are nothing but spun sugar and do nothing to strengthen you. They only get you high and then let you down like a sugar rush and a sugar drop.
In contrast, the mature body of Christ is to do something else:
For you scholars out there, verse 15 is a chiasm with verse 14. What that means is that while the false teachers lay out a false doctrine in a deceptive manner, we lay out the truth in a loving manner.
Instead of becoming more like the world in its way of doing things, we become more like Jesus in His way of doing things. What does that mean practically?
Let?s look at a few ways Jesus expects us to behave:
Matt. 5:43 ?You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.?
Luke 6:35 ?But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.?
So we are kind, compassionate, and prayerful even towards those who hate us. That?s the love part. What is the speaking the truth part? It?s basically telling like Jesus and His Apostles told it:
John 14:6 Jesus told him, ?I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.?
Acts 4:12 ?There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.?
Rom. 10:9 ?If you confess with your mouth, ?Jesus is Lord,? and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.?
May I also pause here and say that we generally should always speak the truth in love to one another. Being truthful means being transparent. Being loving means being gentle and always wanting to see God?s good in other people. That?s not actually the focus here, though?we get to that later in the chapter.
So what happens when we all start to see our place in expressing the truth of the gospel and the love of Jesus? The body starts working more efficiently and effectively.
Paul moves from the sailing metaphor to the human body. We get our English word ?harmony? from the Greek ?fitted and knitted together.? In harmony, not everyone sings the same note, but the notes together make a chord that is pleasing and not dissonant. That, again, is this idea of variety within unity that Paul talks about in the beginning of Chapter 4. As you are probably aware, the more all of your bodily systems are functioning at their peak, the better your whole body feels and the more you are able to do. It?s the same in the body of Christ. If some of our folks are being drawn off into false doctrine, it hurts the effectiveness of the gospel for the whole body.
The language in this verse suggests that Paul is talking about the body of Christ as a whole. But as Paul says, it is by ?the proper working of each individual part.? You are not just cogs in a machine; you are like parts in a Swiss watch. If one part fails, the watch won?t run well or at all. What shows that the body of Christ is growing and functioning well? It is love.
John 13:35 ?By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.?
So what are some good ways to tell whether you are being blown about by every wind of doctrine?
- Is it being touted as a ?brand new thing??
- Is it a secret only they possess and you must join them to truly understand it?
- Does it agree with what you already know of the Word and have been taught?
- Does it contradict the gospel in any way?
What are ways we can grow as the body of Christ in ?speaking the truth in love??
- Focus less on convincing and more on sharing your personal journey with Jesus
- Focus less on arguing or guilting people into the Kingdom and more on ways you can show Christ?s love to them
- Spend less time dissing them behind their back and more time praying for them
- Don?t walk back from the gospel or be ashamed of the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe