maturity builders

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Ephesians 4:14-16 (JDV)

Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.

Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in care, let us grow in every way into him who is the head – Christ.

Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in care by the proper achieving energy of each individual part.

maturity builders

Why is Paul picking on kids? I like little children; they are wonderful. But I get what Paul is saying here. Small children can be gullible and easily influenced. Paul had been talking about the ministries which Christ gave “so the devotees could be equipped for achieving ministry.” These missionaries, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers enabled the Ephesian Christians to be strong in the truth of the gospel and to model the care of Christ.

Lord, thank you for sending us maturity builders.

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the ministry cycle

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Ephesians 4:11-13 (JDV)

Ephesians 4:11 And he himself gave some missionaries, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,

Ephesians 4:12 so the devotees could be equipped for achieving ministry, to build up the body of Christ,

Ephesians 4:13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

the ministry cycle

We are used to thinking of missions work as an auxiliary ministry of the church. But Paul challenges that. He speaks of Christ giving all these ministry gifts so that the body of Christ would be built up through the equipping that each of these ministries accomplishes. In other words, a pastor helps equip others to pastor, a teacher trains others to teach, an evangelist shows others how to evangelize, etc.

That is why Paul was celebrating his connection to the believers in Ephesus. It was not just that Paul needed their support. They also needed his input. Paul’s involvement in the cycle began with his missionary work. The cycle would not be complete until other missionaries start to flow out of Ephesus as a result of his ministry.

Lord, forgive us for compartmentalizing ministry. Help us to connect with all the ministries you have given us for our equipping, so that we can continue the cycle you began with your ascension gifts.

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he also descended

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Ephesians 4:7-10 (JDV)

Ephesians 4:7 Now favor was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:8 For this reason it says: When he ascended on high, he took the captives captive; he gave gifts to humans.

Ephesians 4:9 But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the land?

Ephesians 4:10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the skies, to fill all things.

he also descended

Our Lord’s ascension was actually a return to where he was before. His descending was his incarnation. Only he was qualified to do both things. Salvation is Christ’s gift because only he could afford to purchase it for us. Our Lord’s enthronement in heaven was his return to where he rightfully belonged. It was his choice to descend to this planet that gave us all a chance at eternal life. His follow-through on that choice led to his dying on the cross to serve as the necessary sacrifice reconciling us with the Father. Because he was successful at that sacrifice, we can now walk both in freedom and a new empowerment.

He paid the price – we get the gifts.

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our invitation and our hope

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Ephesians 4:4-6 (JDV)

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Breath – like you were invited to one hope at your invitation –

Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

our invitation and our hope

Paul is emphasizing unity here, and that is why I opt for the more literal gloss “Breath” describing the third person of the divine trinity. He is the breath to the church, and the two go together to form a living being. We care for others within the body because we all have the same care that God has toward all of us.

Of course, as flawed human beings, none of us do this perfectly. That is why Paul talks about our invitation and our hope. We have been invited to a future in which we will demonstrate God’s care perfectly. We have a hope that all our shortcomings will be corrected, and we will be as like God as he intends us to be. Until then, we live in the challenge to be what we will be –as nearly as we can.

This is us, Lord, responding to your invitation. Make us what you intend us to be.

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bearing with one another

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Ephesians 4:1-3 (JDV)

Ephesians 4:1 Then1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the invitation to which you were invited,2

Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in care,

Ephesians 4:3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Breath through the bond of peace.

bearing with one another

We were invited together into this life, given one breath by the Sacred Breath, so we should live like it. If we are all part of the same body, breathing the same Breath, then we should not be attacking and resenting one another. We should be caring for each other, and bearing with each others’ foibles and hangups, just as we put up with our own weaknesses.

Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to make every effort to live this way. It is how we live out the truth of our unity. It will not be easy. If it were, the apostle would not have advised that we make every effort to do it. But the end result is a beautiful thing: a church bearing the fruit of care for each other, demonstrating the care our Savior has shown for us.

Lord, show us how to bear with one another.

1οὖν

2καλέω

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pipe dream

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Ephesians 3:20-21 (JDV)

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that achieves things in us –

Ephesians 3:21 to him be glory in the congregation and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ages and ages. Amen.

pipe dream

Paul’s prayer that the Ephesian Christians be filled with all the fullness of God might seem like a pipe dream: an impossible expectation. But Paul concludes his prayer with a confident declaration of God’s ability to do more than what we can think to ask.

This section alone looks like a doxology – as if Paul meant to conclude his letter here. But it actually serves as a transition to the practical section of the letter where Paul will be urging the Ephesians to live up to the prayer.

Lord, make us confident of God’s ability to change us, and willing to participate in the change without resistance.

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care’s root and fruit

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Ephesians 3:14-19 (JDV)

Ephesians 3:14 In favor of this, I kneel before the Father

Ephesians 3:15 from whom every family in the sky and on the land is named.

Ephesians 3:16 I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner human through his Breath,

Ephesians 3:17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in care,

Ephesians 3:18 may be able to comprehend with all the devotees what is the length and width, height and depth …

Ephesians 3:19 and to know Christ’s care that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

care’s root and fruit

Paul is reacting to the concern and care (ἀγάπη) that the believers in Ephesus are already showing him. He prays that this care, which they are already rooted and grounded in, will be strengthened by the Sacred Breath – empowered by the third person of the Holy Trinity. He prays that the root of God’s care which they are already showing will produce the fruit of Christlike care in its blossom. When that happens, they will experience the fullness of God.

Lord, strengthen us internally, so that we can demonstrate Christ’s care in all we do.

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his plan for the ages

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Ephesians 3:10-13 (JDV)

Ephesians 3:10 This is so that God’s multidimensional wisdom may now be made known through the congregation to the priorities and authorities in the sky realms

Ephesians 3:11 according to his plan for the ages accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 3:12 In him we have boldness and confident access through faith in him.

Ephesians 3:13 For this reason I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions in your behalf, which are your glory.

his plan for the ages

When we face afflictions, we can become easily discouraged. It’s our nature. But one thing that can help us not to sink too low is to realize what God is doing on the supernatural level. He is teaching the angels and demons a lesson. The priorities and authorities in the sky realms are watching to see what we are going to do when our faith in Jesus is not enough to give us a pleasant life now. Will we trust his plan for the ages even when our present circumstances seem to call that trust into question? Will we retreat from our relationship with Him because he has let us down, or retreat into sin to let him down in retaliation? Or, will we keep our courage and confidence and keep storming the gates of heaven with prayer? It’s not just the world that is watching.

Lord, strengthen us during these times of affliction, so that we prove your multidimensional wisdom right.

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incalculable riches of Christ

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Ephesians 3:8-9 (JDV)

Ephesians 3:8 This favor was given to me– the least of all the devotees – to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ,

Ephesians 3:9 and to shed light for all about the commission of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.

incalculable riches of Christ

There is a thrill that comes from exposing the truth of scripture to a life in darkness and desperate need. It is like bringing a gift which will rescue a family from a life of debt and fruitless labor. Paul is in prison, paying the price for this joy. Yet he still speaks of sharing the gospel as the incalculable riches of Christ – a favor that he has received.

Lord, thank you for enriching us with the incalculable riches of Christ. Show us how to share the wealth.

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equal in Christ

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Ephesians 3:5-7 (JDV)

Ephesians 3:5 This was not made known to humans in other generations as it is now revealed to his devoted missionaries and prophets by the Breath:

Ephesians 3:6 The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:7 I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s favor that was given to me by the achieving energy of his power.

equal in Christ

The gospel – breathed out by the Sacred Breath of God – is a message from God that all people regardless of ethnic origin now have access to God equally. When this truth was revealed to Paul, it dramatically changed his life. It is the reason he is now a prisoner. But in spite of where he is, his proclamation of the gospel must go on. If he cannot go to Ephesus, he needs to send this epistle there. He message is unity and freedom and equal partnership in the promise.

Lord, thank you for the message of your gospel, setting us free and making us equal in Christ.

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