Defining Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

-Humans are hardwired to want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. 

-I’ve been talking to a friend recently about what makes a story “epic.” (stirs the soul, captures the imagination, sense of longing) Think of the appeal of LOTR or Narnia.

-I think all of us long for this. Civilizations since the dawn of time have had stories to help us understand our place in the world. Beowolf, Epic of Gilgamesh. Jews had Noah and his ark, the crossing of the Red Sea. Rome had the raising of the twins by wolves. Americans have the midnight ride of Paul Revere. 

-This past week, I went to a conference in Denver where I ran into a friend from seminary who is planning to pursue PhD work in New Zealand, AKA Middle Earth. As soon as I heard that I said that to him, and he agreed that’s why he wanted to go there! We LONG to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. 

-Yet that’s exactly what God invites us into. But this invitation is to something even more epic than a fantasy story full of talking animals. God’s story is true, and allows us to get caught up in the most epic story that is taking place around us every moment of every day, yet we need to retune our minds so that we can better see and understand what is taking place around us all the time. We need a Gandalf to rouse us from our complacency, and jump off the couch and go on this wonderful adventure!

READ/PRAY (Titus 2:11-14, 579)

  1. God’s Purpose in Human History

-How do you summarize the story of the Bible? Creation, fall, redemption, consummation? The revealing of God’s eternal plan? The establishment of God’s people? 

-Establishment of the kingdom of God: God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing. We studied 1 Peter together, that book was a reminder of how to live as holy exiles, remembering that our kingdom is not of this world. We’re citizens of a new country where Jesus sits on his throne, and the best part is he can’t be outvoted!

-God’s people are those who seek to worship (obey) God in every facet of their lives, imaging Him and obeying His mandates to fill the earth and subdue it.

-God’s place is everything! Since God created everything there is nothing outside His realm. Kuyper: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

-God’s rule and blessing comes about as His people (the church) preach and practically live out the gospel in every area of their lives. God’s purpose, from eternity past, was to have a people who demonstrate Him by what they say and how they live, distinct from the world around them. 

-Let’s look at some passages that talk about what this looks like:

Titus 2:11-14 (579)

-“Grace of God appeared” that’s talking about Jesus. This brings about salvation, which is available to everyone. Then when we are saved, it leads to godly lives today, as we anxiously wait for God’s return.

-“Purify for himself” holiness/sanctification, means we are “zealous for good works.” Those who are saved are looking for opportunities to do good works. Do you look for those opportunities? Are you “zealous” working your hardest, to do these good works? 

Col. 1:13-14 (572)

-Delivered from the domain of darkness, in a new kingdom, gives us redemption. We can summarize this idea with a diagram.

-We are called to live out good works, to live out the truths of the gospel, and we are called to do that together, in community during “this present age.” But this isn’t just an NT idea, we see another picture of this in the OT

-Picture of this using an arrow.

-Jer. 29:5-7 life in exile for God’s people (382)

-Notice how normal this is! Live a holy life in the normal everyday life, we’ll look like we’re doing the same things as everyone else, but with a different focus, aim, and goal. We’re supposed to actively look for ways to be a blessing to our communities (don’t have time for this now, but I’ll talk about it some during Scraps tomorrow, how do we pursue the blessing of our community when the culture emphasizes the opposite of what we’ve been called to do/be, and calls our attempts at blessing intolerance. Separate issue than we have time for today, but I think it warrants conversation)

-Before we get to “discipleship” I think we need to understand what a disciple is, so let’s begin defining what a disciple is before we get to the activity of discipleship (or, spoiler alert, “discipling”)

  • What is a disciple?

Luke 6:40 (503)

-At it’s most basic level, it is a “learner” Saw this in Eph. 4:20 “learned Christ” All of us are supposed to be learning from Christ, remembering that we aren’t above our teacher (Jesus) but the aim, direction, purpose, is to “learn Christ” that is to be like Him, to follow after Him, to represent Him to others, to help teach others what He’s like.

-So we can take our arrow picture and add the idea of them becoming a “learner” by putting an “L” above those who are learning Christ.

-What are some pictures of this? Baptism & yoke

John 4:1 (518)

-What does baptism signify? Dying to your old ways of living, washing the old self off and putting on the new. We see in other places in the NT that baptism serves as a visible demonstration of our death to ourselves and the new life we’ve been given in Christ. In 1st Cent. Served as a physical, visible identification with a new teacher. John had quite the following, if Jesus comes and baptizes even more, his notoriety would have spread quickly! Therefore, baptism serves as the visible demonstration that you are publicly identifying with Christ and dying to your old ways of living. 

-Have you been baptized?

Matt 11:27-30 (476)

-This is where it becomes fun! Jesus invites us into the epic story of cosmic, universal renewal. It doesn’t make sense in our minds, because it’s both the easiest and the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.

-Yoke is easy and light (which is only true because Jesus is pulling with you, but it’s still a yoke, which means you need to put in all your effort. Is this God’s doing or ours? Yes! 100% our job, 100% God’s job. Our work is light and easy compared to trying to do it by ourselves, but we need to do the work if we want to join with God in this epic story we’re called into. 

-Another way of summarizing this idea is: “Transformative learning” Doesn’t just stay in the theoretical (it can’t) it must lead to transformation and conformation (conforming into the image of God)

-The last text I want us to look at is Jesus’ last recorded words in Matthew’s Gospel, the great commission 

Matt. 28:18-20 (487)

-Preached on this text before (when I candidated) but that was over 2 years ago now, and that was meant to serve as the starting point for this series now! What is the significance of this passage to being a disciple? It’s the last recorded words from Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, meant to be the final/lasting thought for us of the story of Jesus, and it’s significant because it’s how Jesus’ ministry is meant to continue. So really briefly, what does this look like: 

-Dependent on Jesus’ authority. If He’s not in control, why would we obey Him?

-“As you’re going,” This is not mean to be a completely different thing, nor is it supposed to be unique. Everyone lives a life somewhere (job, house, hobbies, favorite restaurant – Applebees) 

-Jesus answers HOW we make disciples: BY baptizing & teaching (baptizing is the entry point, teaching is the continual training) another way of saying this is making and maturing

-The way you know this is working is the outworking of this in “observe all that I have commanded you.” So let’s ask: how well are you obeying everything Jesus commanded? Let’s start with a basic one: do you love God completely with everything you have? That’s the first and most important commandment! The second most important is how are you loving your neighbor?

-With this big emphasis we’ve seen on making disciples, you’d think it would be prevalent throughout the rest of the NT, right? The funny this is, the last time the word “disciple” appears in the NT is Acts 21:16 “Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us…” and then it disappears. So am I just making a mountain out of a molehill, emphasizing something that should be ignored of forgotten? Do you think that maybe the disciples forgot about it, or moved on from making disciples to the REAL work of the ministry?

-Shift from “disciple” to “learner”

Rom. 16:17 “contrary to the doctrine you have been taught” (learned)

1 Cor. 14:31 “So that all may learn and be encouraged”

Phil. 4:9, Phil. 4:11 “what you have learned, practice them” “I have learned to be content.”

Col. 1:5-7 “You heard and understood…just as you learned from…”

Eph. 4:19-24 “learned Christ”

Titus 3:14 “learn to devote themselves to good works.”

-Using the previous diagram, we could summarize these ideas by adding an “L” to the top of those who have moved from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son.

-How, then do we define what a disciple is? 

            TVP: “A forgiven sinner who is learning Christ in repentance and faith” (74)

GW: “A disciple is someone who learns the way of Jesus, which is both cognitive and behavioral, knowing and doing.” (213)

Mine: A redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. (A good summary/litmus test of this is Gal. 5 the fruit of the Spirit) What’s left out of this? Nothing! Fruit of the Spirit is meant to be demonstrated in every circumstance/area of our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The key is someone who is learning. I onetime heard someone say that the road to Christian maturity is paved with Christian books, you can’t grow in learning of Christ unless you’re reading about Him! But it’s also not enough to do this individually, because as we’ll see next, transitioning from disciple to discipleship is a community endeavor. 

“whereas we often think of learning in terms of our own personal growth and advancement—of becoming a better me in some way—to learn Christ is to be increasingly focused on others rather than ourselves.” (TVP)

-James talks about this in James 1:22 the need to be hearers AND doers, not enough to just think right, you also need to live right, which is where this learning must be transformative. 

  • What is discipleship?

-Moving on to the next step of this, to be a disciple is to be a learner, so discipleship is helping people become better learners. Some potential definitions: 

-While listening to Dr Hendricks speak, I sensed that discipleship might be something I could do, unlike more public types of ministry because you didn’t have to preach or do anything public.[Dennis McCallum and Jessica Lowery, Organic Discipleship: Mentoring Others into Spiritual Maturity and Leadership]

-What would happen to the church of Jesus Christ if a majority of those who claim to follow Christ were nurtured to maturity through intimate, accountable relationships centered on the essentials of God’s word? Self-initiating, reproducing disciples of Jesus would be the result.[Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ

-Discipleship is all about living life together rather than just one structured meeting per week.[Francis Chan with Mark Beuving, Multiply]

-Many churches have used various types of small groups as part of their discipleship strategy (home groups, life groups, fellowship groups, community groups, etc.).[Randy Pope with Kitti Murray, Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church]

-Mark calls the Church to abandon its imperialistic dreams on the one hand, and its passive noninvolvement on the other, and to become for the world what Jesus was for the world. That is what discipleship, following Jesus, really means. [NT Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship

-We need more of the engine that Jesus used to change the world, the engine he instructs us to use. This engine will not create perfect churches, but it will create effective churches. It’s relational discipleship. [Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington with Robert E Coleman, DiscipleShift]

-Anything that helps someone take 1 step closer to God in their life aka worship 

-This demands both making and maturing, as well as doing and being. I at times worry that we’ve segmented discipleship as a tack on for only the “mature” Christians, when the reality is that discipleship is inherent to the Christian faith! To practice discipleship is to be a Christian, however, there are both good and bad ways to do this, we’ll look more fully at this idea next week, as there’s something that needs to be the foundation of all our discipleship, spoiler alert: it’s God’s Word. This means discipleship can even take place with unbelievers, where we live in a unique way, ask unique questions, and encourage them to bring their lives closer to Christ. 

-Now remember, this cannot be done alone. It takes others to teach and demonstrate to you “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31)

-Anyone who is married can testify to this reality! Can’t hide your sin anymore! Don’t realize how selfish you are until someone else sees/calls you on your sinful tendencies. And then when you throw kids in, they both start to imitate and then call you on any negative traits! Our kids have learned about kind/unkindness, great thing to learn, not as great when they start to tell you your discipline is being unkind! That’s ok, it’s an opportunity to disciple them!

-Examples of this abound in the NT, but I want to take some time to look at 1, especially as it was reminded to me a couple months ago by a fellow pastor of mine in how we should engage each other.

1 Thess. 5:13-22 (574)

[13] Be at peace among yourselves. [14] And we urge you (y’all), brothers, admonish the idle,encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. [15] See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. [16] Rejoice always, [17] praywithout ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [19] Do not quench the Spirit. [20] Do not despise prophecies, [21] but test everything; hold fast what is good. [22] Abstain from every form of evil.

-Look at all these various commands: 

-Explain the text. This is all done in the context of community, discipleship cannot happen alone.

-Bonhoeffer in Life Together “The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”

-We need each other, we need God’s Word to be spoken to each other, and we need the church to hold us accountable, which is what we’ll be looking at together over the coming weeks. I love the way The Vine Project summarizes this idea.

TVP: “the persevering proclamation of the word of God by the people of God in prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God, otherwise known as the four Ps: 

  1. Proclamation of the word in multiple ways 
  2. Prayerful dependence on the Spirit 
  3. People are God’s fellow workers 
  4. Perseverance, step by step”

-So what does all this look like? A couple ideas as we wrap up:

  1. Take what you’re already doing, and refocus it toward growth/holiness. Matt 4:19 (472). Jesus took fisherman and refocused them to become fishers of men.
  2. We do this because we are sent & commissioned by God John 20:21 (529). Do you view your life as sent by God, to actively work at moving people 1 step closer to God with your interactions? Because that’s exactly what God has called us to do and be: a disciple who pursue discipleship by our daily interactions with each other. 

-Even this week! Take some time during Thanksgiving to think about how you can intentionally make and mature those you’re interacting with!

Ephesians 6:10-24 Sermon Manuscript

Spiritual Fighting in Christ

Ephesians 6:10-24

We’ve made it! This is the end of our series on Ephesians! 

So: a quick recap: We saw all this rich doctrine, theological truth in 1-3. That God extended his grace to us when we were sinners, that faith allows us to be sealed by the Holy Spirit, the riches we’ve been given in Christ, remember those 2 words: BUT GOD! 

Then there was a shift in chapter 4 that set the tone for the rest of the book. Paul urged us WALK WORTHILY! We do that by seeking unity, continuing to put off our old self and put on Christ, walking in love, have rightly ordered relationships at home and outside of the home. Today we’ll look at the final way we walk worthily, and it picks up a similar theme to the end of chapter 4: we’re called to put something on, instead of putting on the new self, we’re called to put on the whole armor of God, which we’ll see is the same thing as putting on the new self.

READ

PRAY

As a guy growing up, this was one of my favorite Bible passages, because it has that connotation of fighting with it. I even remember wearing those cheap plastic “armor of God” toys when I was in Sunday School. Look, the 90s were a weird time in the evangelical Christian subculture. In fact, that stuck with me so much, that when I got to college and took Greek, I spent 3 months studying this passage, and did a whole presentation using pictures and movie clips from the movie 300. I loved this! Paul’s picking up all these Roman ideas, this elite fighting force who dominated world history for centuries! 

The problem is: that’s not Paul’s intent! While Paul’s imprisonment certainly would have given him many opportunities to see Roman armor up close and personal, his choice of armor would be leaving out some key areas in the Romans armor. Instead, Paul’s picking up on this Messianic prophecy in Isaiah. 

You don’t need to turn there, but listen to some of this wording.

Smack dab in the middle of a Messianic prophecy that gets read most Christmases about someone coming from the stump of Jesse on whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest. Isaiah 11:4-5 “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”

On dealing with the Lord’s coming salvation, coming right before one of the Easter passages in Isaiah 53, is Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion ‘Your God reigns.’” 

Isaiah 59:17 “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” 

In Paul’s mind as he’s writing this is all these things we now get because we’re in Christ! Which leads us in to verse 10. 

  1. Be Strong in the Lord! (10-20)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of HIS might.

Finally – this is the last of how we practically walk worthily, and in many ways this is a summary of everything that’s come before, as we’ll see as we continue walking through it! 

Notice whose might are we to be strong in? Even the command to “be strong” has the connotation of being strengthened, we are the ones being acted upon to be strong. God is the one whose power is at work in us (1:19) when we are brought into right relationship with God. It is GOD who works all these things out in our lives. Remember that quote from Johnathan Edwards: “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” 

This is circling all the way back to chapter 1, “In him…” we have redemption (7), we have an inheritance (11), we were sealed with the HS (13) 

These things all take place because of Christ’s work in us, not because of anything we can do. And how do we appropriate this strength? By putting on the armor of God. Putting on the armor of God is HOW we remain strong in the Lord. 

  1. Use the full armor of God in your spiritual battles (11-13)

Put on the whole armor of God, 

First thing, we’re called to put on the WHOLE armor of God. We don’t get to pick and choose the pieces we want. 
Generally, that’s the way armor works anyway. EVERY individual piece is necessary for comprehensive coverage. But there’s also nothing that’s redundant or unnecessary. It’s all carefully thought through & planned to be most effective in battle. Similarly here, we need to arm ourselves completely. Why? Look at the rest of vs. 11-12.

That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The physical world is not all there is. Western world is unique because we have a tendency to ignore the spiritual realities around us that the majority world continues living in. Yet we can’t get completely away from it, even in our “enlightened” minds! There’s still magic 8 balls sold in stores, you can still buy a “lucky” rabbits foot, there’s still “psychics” who will tell you your fortune for the right fee, even Sephora tried getting into the game by selling “witch kits!” We are far more spiritual than we care to admit!

The problem for many of us in the Western world is: we don’t pay enough attention to the spiritual state of our souls. We care far more about our physical health than our spiritual health because the spiritual health is a lot harder to measure. I think this is a large part of the reason it’s so hard for many of us to get to church on time! I know, there’s kids, there’s the lame driver, the list is endless, BUT that’s why we need to gather together! We are a visible representation of the world to come, which we’ll see in the next verse. 

Satan, the evil one really exists – AND he’s had millennia to hone his craft. Think about some of your hobbies. How do you get good at them? Practice. Hours and hours and hours. Now take that and expand it by millennia, and that’s what the devil has had to work with. 

Paul also says this is wrestling in the spiritual realm. I remember loving the idea of wrestling when I was growing up, wrestling with my dad, my sisters, my friends. Calvin loves wrestling with me! But this signifies a specific type of fighting. 

This spiritual battle is not something far off, removed from us, it’s close, it’s intimate, it’s something we need to deal with because ignoring it leads to our detriment. We’re in this battle already, the question is what are we going to do with it? Paul answers what we should do with it in verse 13:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Again, we see this reminder to take up the whole armor of God. SO THAT we can stand. That idea of standing has come up a few times now already in just a few verses. This seems to go against this idea we’ve been sharing of “WALK worthily” We can’t walk and stand at the same time, well, I guess there are those moving walkways at the airports that make it possible, BUT other than that you can’t walk and stand at the same time! Notice that Paul doesn’t say we need to win the war, he just says stand. The battle’s already been won!

The evil day – Bible talks about 2 periods of history, before Christ, and after Christ, and the after Christ is known as the last days, what we’re living in right now. 

What Paul is communicating is the way we walk worthily, the way we orient and go about our lives, means we must stand strong against the devil and his works. It means not rescinding any areas to him. Think of someone wearing a military uniform, if you notice the flag on their arm, no matter which way they’re going the flag is flying back, so they’re never giving up any ground! Similarly, we cannot give up any ground to the devil. That’s how we stand firm. Now let’s take a look at howwe’re able to do that, as we put on the whole armor of God. What does the armor consist of? 

  • The armor consists of… (14-20)

The armor: subjective AND objective. Every piece.

Many scholars debate whether these things are talking about Christ’s attributes or ours, much ink has been spilled in this debate, but when you get right down to it, both are supposed to be true. Christ personified every piece of this armor perfectly, so should we. 

Having fastened on the belt of truth

What is the truth he’s referring to? 

Eph. 1:13 “When you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him.” 

The gospel message is associated with the truth. All truth is God’s truth.

Remember, truth both subjectively and objectively, so it begins when we objectively believe the truth of the gospel, believing in Jesus who is THE truth (Eph. 4:21), but then subjectively it means we are truth- tellers (Eph 4:25)

As Christians, we have the only truth. As that truth of that gospel takes root in us we become marked by truthful lives. That leads us to the first question: Are you marked by truth? 

Throughout history, those who have been most used by God have been people who have been those most saturated in God’s truth. Martin Luther had most of the Bible memorized. John Wesley, whose evangelistic zeal was the spark God used to begin a revival, had the NT memorized in Greek. This foundation will come up again. 

And having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

Righteousness is one of those Christian words that gets tossed around a lot but not always defined. So what is Paul talking about? 

Once again, it’s come up before. Eph. 4:24 “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” 

Something God-like in righteousness. It is moral uprightness, which we know is not our own doing, because apart from God we have no right standing. 

So again, subjective and objective. Objectively there is 1 righteous person in all of existence, yet through faith in Christ, his righteousness is given to us. This is what is known as imputed righteousness. Christ takes the penalty for our sin on himself, and we get the righteousness of Christ given to us. One author has called this The Great Exchange. We give sin, we get righteousness. THE BEST!

So: have you made that great exchange? Have you given your sins to God and received his righteousness? 

And as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

All of us wear shoes. There’s various types of shoes for various types of activities. You’ve got your hiking shoes, basketball shoes, tennis shoes, sandals, dress shoes, Crocs. And there’s nothing worse than wearing the wrong shoes for the current activity! I played basketball growing up and had really weak ankles, which meant I had to make sure I had the right kind of shoe for the activity to make sure I didn’t accidentally roll my ankle. Shoes really matter! But spiritually, we need to be ready to manifest the gospel of peace. BUT not just the gospel of peace, but the readinessthat comes from the gospel of peace. So what does that mean? 

We must ALWAYS be ready to share the gospel in any and every opportunity we have. There’s a certain amount of jealousy that I have for those of you who are not in vocational ministry. You get to have those conversations around the coffee machine that I don’t! I miss the days where I was getting to rub shoulders with unbelievers every day in the work place, because those opportunities came up almost weekly where someone would ask something about me that was different. But this isn’t just at work, as we’ve seen over the past couple weeks, parents, YOU have opportunities probably every day to demonstrate the gospel in word and deed with your kids!

But it’s not just the gospel, it’s the gospel of what? Peace! We tend to neglect that aspect to our faith except for Christmas, where we remember Jesus is the prince of peace. And don’t forget, this is peace objectively and subjectively! Objectively, the gospel allows us to have peace with God which leads to the peace of God. Apart from God’s work in the spiritual realm, there is no hope for peace in the physical realm. 

Clinton Arnold, “Spiritual warfare is the solution to human warfare”

BUT, in God, there can be peace. Apart from God, there is no peace. 

So is your life marked by the gospel of peace? 

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one

I believe, help my unbelief. 

Faith in God is based on a precedent of what God has previously done to/for you. So again, remember objective and subjective. Objectively, we have faith in God, but subjectively, that faith is based on things God is doing and has already done. 
Here I raise my Ebenezer (Come Thou Fount), stone of remembrance 

We NEED those because we’re so quick to forget how God has provided! Think of the space we’re in right now. Do you know what went in to get here, or the fact that we nearly had to sell the building 12 years ago to survive. Think about how God has provided above and beyond what a few people (some of whom are sitting in here) over 40 years ago could have even dreamed of??? And not just us, think about the church in Ephesus 2,000 years ago, under persecution daily, do you think they ever could have thought Christianity would become THE dominate world religion? So have faith!

When we have faith, it allows us to fight against temptation. Think about the way we try to excuse sin…The devil made me do it…I was born this way…it’s not my fault…it was bad parenting…it was the hand I’ve been dealt…You do realize that none of that matters or is an excuse for sin? We all have our pet excuse we go to when we allow those darts from the evil one in, and as we saw earlier, he’s been practicing his archery a lot longer than you and I have been around! So put your faith in God! Trust that He is better than any temptation the devil may throw at you.

And take the helmet of salvation

Just as a helmet protects us, so salvation protects us. For those of us who are “in Christ” we can now wear the helmet of salvation. Once we’re truly saved there’s no going back! This allows us to walk with confidence because we already know our destination. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I hope and pray we start to see more of that in our prayer chain!

Grace Be With You (21-24)

Let’s see how Paul ends this letter. 

Paul is sending “the beloved brother.” A dear friend who’s been through thick and thin for the purpose of encouragement. Paul, the guy who’s under arrest is trying to encourage the church in Ephesus. That’s amazing! That’s the guy who’s learned the secret to being content in all circumstances! That’s the kind of question all of us should be asking: how can we encourage each other no matter what circumstances we’re in? 

Finally, the last things he mentions are: peace, love, faith and grace. That’s a pretty good description of the gospel, and a great way to end our time studying this book. Peace: God has provided a way for people from EVERY walk of life to come together and get along. Peace with God leads to the peace of God. Love: and not just get along, but genuinely LOVE each other! Just as Christ loved us. Faith: the bond that unites us, blood is thicker than water, except in the family of God. Grace: God’s undeserved favor given to us. We need to be reminded of that reality all the time, instead of dismissing or neglecting that truth.

Paul’s told us how to ensure we stand fast against the schemes of the devil, and it begins by praying, so I’m going to give you some time to pray right now. We’ve seen things we can pray for, we’ve seen to pray for the strength to stand firm, we’ve seen to pray for each other, and for boldness to proclaim the gospel. 

Ephesians 5:17-33 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-What’s the best piece of marriage advice you got before you got married? Start with me second best advice: “know your home team.” Best was “if you wake up every day and decide you’re going to die to yourself for the sake of your spouse, you’ll be just fine.”

-Same guy who gave me the best parenting advice: “never, never, never shake your baby.”

READ/PRAY (pg. 569)

  1. Be Filled with the Spirit (17-21)

-Seems to be an abrupt diversion into: being drunk. Where did that come from?

Drunkenness has been a problem for a really long time, and is always sinful. Remember back to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), people thought they were drunk! So what that means for us is: 

-We should be “under the influence” of the Spirit, not alcohol. The amazing thing is we, as believers, have the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, indwelling us as believers, leading us and guiding us in righteousness, reminding us of the things Christ taught, and conforming us more into the image of Jesus. We are in a unique era in human history, because once the Holy Spirit’s in us, He’s not leaving! That’s what it means to be new covenant believers.

-Another thing we see is that this isn’t something unique for those “super holy” Christians, this is descriptive of the normal, daily Christian life, daily filled by the Spirit.

-Keith really struggling, driving and singing his heart out, didn’t realize how fast he was going and got pulled over.

-“The result of the Spirit’s work in our lives is renewed worship and renewed relationships.” (Merida, 133)

-So how do we encourage each other to be filled with the Spirit? I’m glad you asked! Paul reminds of 3 things: Address each other, give thanks always, submit to each other

  1. Address one another (19)

-Notice the vertical and horizontal component to our singing: “addressing one another” and “to the Lord” 

-Think about it like a see-saw – in order to keep that see saw level we need BOTH components. 

-There’s an element to our singing that is teaching, which comes out in the parallel passage in Col. 3. We teach the truths of the gospel to each other when we sing, that’s why the content of our singing is important. 

-Notice that Paul encourages a variety of types of songs. Nowhere in the Bible is any particular style/genre of music listed as “better” than the others. 

-So Paul says, “Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs.” Psalms are Hebrew songs of praise to God, hymns are Greek songs of praise to their gods, spiritual songs encompasses everything else – Spirit inspired songs of praise. Paul is not referring to How Great Thou Art when he lists “hymns” 

-In fact, people mean different things when they talk about a “hymn” Augustine defined it: sung, praise, to God. 

-Google: a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god.

-Merriman Webster: a song of praise to God

-I’ve yet to find a definition of hymn that means: in the hymnal or old.

-Grant Osborne “Hymns in the early church were used to teach theology to believers. The lyrics were chosen not for their artistic value but for their truth and depth of content.” (182)

-THAT’S what matters! The content. So we work INCREDIBLY hard to ensure that what we’re singing is biblically true, Christ centered, God glorifying, and that can be done with a wide assortment of songs

-Paul is saying whatever your background musically, it’s welcome in the church. 

“with your heart” is not saying we sing silently, or internally, but instead with our whole being. The heart is the center/sum of who we are. So sing with ALL WE’VE GOT! This means singing is not optional! Paul COMMANDS us to sing! 

-Pliny, governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor Christians “met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god.”

-Tertullian, writing from North Africa during the end of the 1st Century, “Each is invited to sing to God in the presence of other from what he knows of the holy scripture or from his own heart.” How would you like to be invited to sing your own Scripture memory each week? 

And over all of this is:

  • Give thanks always (20)

-As Christians, we always have a reason to be thankful, because of the truth of the gospel message. We were once dead, alienated from life in God, but God who is rich in mercy saved us. Therefore, we give thanks!

-The opposite of this is sin. Richard Coekin in his commentary on this passage says, ““Sin is essentially rebellious and complaining ungratefulness; and holiness is essentially a life of gratitude for all that God has graciously given us in Christ.” (158)

-Even the fact that we’re here gathering together should be enough of a reminder for us to give thanks. COVID should have been enough of a reminder for all of us of the need for meeting with other believers for encouragement and edification. I know I look at this gathering much differently today than I did before COVID!

-I don’t always like what we do on Sundays “If the gathering is about building up and encouraging the church, then a song I don’t like presents an opportunity to love and encourage others whose tastes differ from mine.” (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace, 88)

-“Are you known for ongoing thanksgiving or for complaining, murmuring, and pouting?” (Merida, 134)

  • Submit to one another (21)

-This is a daily dying to yourself. Dying to your preferences, desires, goals, everything for the sake of those around you. 

-This is most visibly made manifest through the process today known as church membership. Through that, we make a commitment to love each other unconditionally, support each other through anything, and be willing to do so until the Lord moves us or calls us home. Why do we do this? Because we see it modeled in our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

-This is the opposite of how we naturally orient our lives. Everything we do gives us the illusion that we’re the center of the world, which then affects the way we interact with each other in the family of God. We’ve got our iPhones, iPads, etc. 

-That’s part of the reason this gathering is vital to our lives. We need to be reminded that we’re not the center of the universe. We need a weekly reorientation, like calibrating your phone when you use the compass. 

-The next section seems to be an abrupt shift from talking about corporate worship to talking about marriage, but the reason Paul does this is because each family unit needs to be healthy for the whole church to be healthy, AND because marriage serves as a visible witness of the gospel message – that message that makes the church body unique. 

-On top of that, it struck me recently that for Paul, this wasn’t a disjointed idea. The church body is a family, which means everyone has a specific role to play. Because of the church/family connection, Paul just continues his thought from the church to the nuclear family. Those 2 ideas aren’t disjointed to Paul, instead they’re intimately connected (one requirement of an elder is managing his own household well, because the church is a bigger household!)

-Now anytime we talk about marriage in the church, I know there’s a temptation for singles to tap out and not listen, at least that was my temptation when I was single! But don’t tune out! Whether or not you ever get married you’re a part of the church, which means you need to know these things to encourage your brothers and sisters who are married, AND as a reminder of the realities of the gospel message, as we’ll soon see in verse 32. And the reality is, as Kent Hughes says, “Many of the problems in Christian marriages come from either an ignorance of or a cavalier disregard for the scriptural teaching on the roles of men and women in marriage.”

  • Wives: Submit to Your Husbands (22-24)

-This is one of the most hotly contested passages in the Bible. What does it mean to submit, and what does it look like?

-A large part of the reason this is contested is because none of us like the idea of submission, and in our culture there has been a flattening of any leadership, we love it when the underdog sticks it to “the man” Yet that’s not God’s way. In fact, submission is at the heart of the gospel message! 

-You see, Jesus is the king of everything, which requires everything else to submit to him. So becoming a believer means submitting ourselves to Jesus as the Lord of everything. Then, for our flourishing that means we need to correctly order our earthly relationships. So it begins with wives submitting to their husbands. 

-That word submit is someone who is completely equal being willing to trust and follow their leader’s guidance. So submission in the home does NOT mean women are inferior in any way. Both men and women are created in the image of God, equal in dignity, status and worth. 

-One way to think about this is in the military. The military cares greatly about correctly ordered relationships, which requires submission. If there is correct submission and accountability the military will flourish, if not you’re left with anarchy, so at the heart of what Paul is saying here is: submission is how we have correctly ordered relationships in the home. And why do wives submit? Let’s read verse 23 again:

  1. Why? (23)

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and his himself its Savior.

-What does Paul mean when he says head? Well think about your own head, what does your head do? It’s the command center, if you will, of the rest of the body! The head provides nourishment to the rest of the body, and also dictates where the rest of the body goes and does.

  • How? (24)

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

-Paul shares an example of how wives are to submit to their husbands: that is just like the church submits to Christ, who is the head of the church. 

-Notice as well that this isn’t ALL women submit to ALL men, this is just within the home, between a husband and wife. BUT:

-No qualifiers: IF he’s smart, IF he loves you, IF he helps around the house. It doesn’t even say IF he’s a Christian, it says, “in everything” This was one of the ways the early church grew, through women honoring their husbands well, thus leading them to the Lord by the way they lived.

-Just as I shared last week with slaves, this does NOT mean women are doormats who are expected to not think, talk or do anything but serve their husbands, we’ll see the husbands role in a minute. 

-It also does NOT mean following your husband in to sin. Here’s the thing, even though the husband is the head of the home, we, as husbands have an even higher authority: God.

-The key to remember here is this God has designed marriage, he decides the rules, he dictates the best way for families to flourish, which means wives submit to their husbands. This means a daily dying to yourself for the sake of your family. 

-Now husbands are not off the hook. And Paul dedicates the rest of the 9 remaining verses (women only get 3) in this chapter to addressing husbands, and it’s very simple: 

  • Husbands: Love Your Wives

-While wives are called to submit, husbands are called to love their wives, JUST LIKE CHRIST loved the church! Paul describes a number of ways that we are to love our wives, can be summarized with S: sacrificial, sanctifying, and self-love. 

And gave himself up for her

  1. Sacrificial Love (25)

-I am by no means an expert on marriage, as we’ve only been married for 7.5 years, so I’m going to be relying heavily on the thoughts of others for this section, as you’ll hear from the various quotes. My dad, who was a pastor, encouraged me to preach all my sermons on marriage BEFORE I got married, because you don’t realize how hard it is until after! BUT, I do know what the Bible says. 

-Have you ever thought about the way the gospel is made evident in marriage? Tim Keller in his book “The Meaning of Marriage,” which I HIGHLY recommend, says, 

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” (44)

-This notion of giving of yourself means you as the husband must daily die to your wants, desires and preferences. It means LITERALLY dying for your wife if you must! It’s this self-sacrificing love from a husband that makes it easy for a wife to submit to her husband when necessary. 

-I once heard a pastor sharing a wonderful example of this in his daily life that’s such a little thing it seems trivial, but speaks to the larger way we as men can sacrificially love his wife. When they drive in the car she picks the music. 

-Husbands: how are you sacrificing for your wives? 

-But that’s not the only kind of love Paul talks about, he goes on to talk about:

  • Sanctifying Love (26-27)

This process of sanctification is purifying or cleansing. Think of taking a shower after an exhausting day. Marriage is one of the primary means of sanctification because it’s in the daily grind that your sinful tendencies come out. And the best part of that is: because there’s a covenant, you know they’re not going anywhere! Your spouse is committed to loving you IN SPITE of your sinful tendencies! And here’s the deal: you BOTH have those sinful tendencies. 

When Sinners Say “I Do” 

-I one time heard a story of a really difficult season in a pastor’s marriage. The church on the verge of a church split, long-time members were calling for his firing, things at home weren’t easy, and there seemed to be no way out. He and his wife one night went on a walk and were talking about everything going on, and his wife asked “Why are you still with me?” The pastor replied, “Because I made a covenant with you.” 

-Not the most romantic moment for him! But the point is true, we can’t rely on feelings to get us through a lifetime together, we need a covenant.

-This idea of sanctifying and cleansing also carries with it the idea of being set apart for God, which means men have an immense responsibility to point their wives to the Lord.

“A Christian husband will want to support Christ’s will for his wife, not with an overly intense marriage, but with one that enables them to serve God together and so proclaim the triumph of Christ in the spiritual realm.” (Coekin, 171)

-A problem for many of us is we are selfish. We don’t think about pursuing holiness because we’re too worried about happiness, which will only come about as a byproduct of pursuing holiness. So for husbands, that means intentionally praying for your wife. Praying for the strength to lead well, to point her to Christ, and to die to yourself. I was listening to a pastor once state that husbands should go to bed EXHAUSTED every day, because you are pouring yourself out. And one of the ways you should be pouring yourself out is in prayer. 

 “If we are not praying for our wives in detail, we are not loving them as Christ loved the church and are, in fact, sinning. We should be praying for their spiritual life, obligations, pressures, friendships, and dreams daily and passionately, for that is how Christ prays for us!” (Hughes, 189)

So husbands: how are you doing with loving your wives in a sanctifying way? Kent Hughes summarizes this well:

“Is our wife more like Christ because she is married to us? Or is she like Christ in spite of us?” (Hughes, 191)

  • Self-love (28-30)

Here’s the crazy thing about a husband who doesn’t love his wife well: he’s only hurting himself! When you are married you go from 2 separate families to 1. The way this was described to Cara and I during our premarital counseling was: you’re on the same team! This is why communication is so important! We need to know what’s going on so we can ensure we’re staying on the same team and not drifting apart. 

Wayne Grudem leaving TEDS for his wife who suffers from fibromyalgia, which flares up in humidity. They took a trip to Phoenix. 

  • The mystery of marriage (31-33)

This is where we see why this applies to everyone, not just those who are married – marriage is an example of the gospel because Jesus is our bridegroom. Going back to music – one of the things people have complained about is “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs, and that’s right, because that’s not intimate enough! The church is preparing herself to meet God face to face where we will finally be united, like a husband and wife are united. 

-Notice now how Paul wraps up this section, it’s a little weird, because you’d expect it to repeat what he’s been talking about: wives submit to your husbands, and husbands love your wives, but he changes what he tells the wives, instead it’s respect

Love & Respect

-The key to all of this: get over yourself. Decide every day when you wake up that you’re going to die to yourself so that you can faithfully serve your spouse, your family, your God, and your church. 

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 99) 

-We need to extend grace to each other. 

-“Gospel-driven forgiveness is the glue that sticks our imperfect marriages together – gradually overcoming bitterness and despair with real hope and joy.” (Coekin, 174)

So all of us: sing loudly! Proclaim the excellencies of the God who saved us! Husbands: love your wives with all you’ve got. Sacrificially, sanctifying, like you love yourself. Wives: respect your husbands and submit to them. Unmarried: encourage the married that you’re friends with to continue on, and for all of us: prepare for our future marriage to God!