A Prisoner for the Lord (4:1)
Paul did not try to aggrandize his status before Christ when making his appeal to the Ephesians to live out their faith. The appeal of Paul is captured well in the lyrics to Michael Card’s song “God’s Own Fool.” (Great album, by the way.)
Seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men
He must have seemed out of His mind
For even His family said He was mad
And the priest say a demon’s to blame
But God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane
We in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
And we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
And so we follow God’s own fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable
Come be a fool as well
So come lose our life for a carpenter’s son
For a man who had died for a dream
And you’ll feel the faith His first followers had
And you’ll feel the weight of the beam
So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see
Reflection: Do you consider yourself a “prisoner” of Christ? In your mind is your life still your own to follow Christ as/when you please? Do you truly believe that you are no longer your own but that you were “bought with a price” (I Cor 6:20; 7:23)? Do you read the Bible looking for suggestions on how to make your life more of what you would like it to be, or as the divine instructions of your Lord?
To Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry (4:12)
God did not give the church leaders to do the work of the church. God gave the church leaders to equip the members of the church (“saints”) to carry out His mission. To add to the weight of this point and to borrow from David Platt’s book Radical, God has no Plan B! The only hope that the Gospel will advance to the ends of the earth is “lay people.” Professional clergy will never complete God’s plan.
Often (not always) we get into the sin and disillusionment that we do because we lose sight of this. When we forget that our reason for existing is to
make the Gospel more known temptation becomes more appealing to us. It is hard to savor the superficial allurements of sin while actively carrying the burden for men’s eternal souls. Likewise, a burden for the Gospel tends to reframe much of what causes us to experience depression, anxiety, or boredom.
Application: Read David Platt’s book Radical. Begin to keep a running list of people (family, friends, acquaintances, customers, attendants, strangers) you interact with on a regular basis and you do not know if they are genuine Christians. Make this list scroll as your screen saver. Visit my blog daily to view the “unreached people of the day.” Then battle your moments of temptation or discouragement (both of which tend to be self-centered) with prayer for these groups.
Marks of Maturity
In Ephesians 4:13-16 Paul gives seven marks of what a mature Christian ought to be. As you review these marks ask yourself two questions: (1) How am I doing at growing in each of these seven areas? and (2) Who am I mentoring to grow in these seven areas (Eph 4:11-12)?
Unity of the Faith (v. 13) Dissension is not a mark of maturity; it is an anti-mark. When you are part of a group or relationship does it tend to become more unified or divided?
Knowledge of the Son of God (v. 13) Jesus is the measuring rod of maturity. Any progress in Christian maturity is a step towards Christ’s character and mission. How often do you meditate on the character of Christ?
Discerning False Doctrine (v. 14) The call to unity is not a call to universalism. As Paul would say in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
Not Naïve to Human Cunning (v. 14) No one comes out and says, “I’m a heretic” or “I’m giving bad advice.” Maturity will always be expressed in the context of relationships with fallen people.
Able to Speak the Truth in Love (v. 15) The principles of 2 Timothy 2:24-26 apply here as well. The goal of maturity is never to win an argument but to win a person. When we begin to become competitive in our approach to non-Christian ideas we have missed the heart of our mission.
Submitted to Christ, The Head (v. 15) Maturity is not about us – who we will become. When our effort becomes self-centered it has lost its focus.
Working Cohesively Within the Church (v. 16) Maturity is never achieved in isolation. A Christian apart from the church will never be healthy in the way God intended. The struggle and blessing of working with other Christ-followers is how God intends to shape and encourage us in the process of maturity.