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Ephesians unfolded

This is the first of a series of posts that I intend to look at the book of Ephesians. For purposes of expediency and personal belief I will keep to the traditional view that it was the Apostle Paul who wrote this letter. I acknowledge that there is some current critical doubt as to it being authentically Pauline, a belief which I don’t hold to and don’t wish to debate here. (1)
The letter is thought to have been written during AD 60-61 by Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. The difference between this letter and his others is that he doesn’t address it directly to any person or group, though our popular versions say to the Church at Ephesus, many of the original manuscripts do not contain that address and it is thought to have been added at a later date and so the intent of the letter is more an open letter to a group of churches around Asia Minor whom he is most likely not personally familiar with, though knowing they know of his authority as an Apostle. The intent of the author is similar to his letter to the Romans Rom 11:33 where he is talking to both Jewish and Gentiles Christians about how they both are in Christ and none is greater than the other. The background here is that the Gentile Christians have grown in numbers and are boasting of their independence and perhaps superiority to Israel and becoming intolerant of their Jewish Christians. Therefore I propose that the outline of the contents of the first chapter of Ephesians should be as follows.

1:1-14 Introduction and purpose of his letter.
1:1-2 Address and salutation
1:3-10 God chooses the Jewish nation to reveal Christ.
1:11-12 God predetermined that it would be Jewish disciples, apostles, prophets whom Paul counts himself among to reveal Christ.
1:13-14 God has also chosen the Gentiles to be included in His plans
1:15-23 Paul prays for the church.
1:15 -16 reason for praying
1:17 – pray for wisdom and revelation so that they could know him better
1:18 – heart be enlightened – know the hope God had called them and the riches of his inheritance in the saints
1:19 -23 Know the incomparably great power for those who believe and what that power is.

If what has been suggested is true by the commentaries in that the Gentiles are being intolerant of the Jewish Christians then Paul is actually rebuking the recipients of this letter reminding them that they were the last to have Christ revealed to them.

The other issue that this raises is that Paul is not speaking to individuals so much about what it was that Christ had done through verses 3 -14 rather he is talking about what He has done is for both the Jewish and Gentile nations together in a corporate manner rather than a individual way. Though we can be greatly encouraged by applying the meaning of those verses to ourselves we need to be careful that we don’t take upon ourselves some of the meanings that Paul assigns on a national level.

Take verse 4 for an example “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” Most Christians wrongly read this verse applying it in a personal way that says, “God chose me in Himself before the creation of the world” The context of the passage does not allow us to make that interpretation rather the true meaning is that before the creation of the world God chose the nation of Israel to be the nation to reveal to the world Christ.

The next passage which is then taken out of context is verse 11-12. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out every thing according to the purpose of his will in order that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory.

Paul is not talking about individual salvation being predetermined by God, rather he is making reference to his apostleship among the other disciples coming out of the Jewish nation as being chosen to reveal Gods plan for the world – “Christ”
He then says, you (Gentiles)also were included in Gods plan of salvation that Christ died for you as well.

Then while it is true that as individuals we take hold of the great promises of Christ we need to remind ourselves that in this first chapter Paul talks about God choosing the Jewish nation to be his children – referring to his promise to Abraham that they will be a great nation blessed by God, then how God chose some to be Apostles (2) to make this plan of salvation known, and 3rdly that the Gentiles are included in this plan of salvation and were so before the creation of the world.

[1] D. Guthrie, J.A Motyer New Bible Commentary, Ephesians (Intervarsity Press, England 1970)p.1107
[2] This is referred again by Paul in 4:11 about how God gave some to be Apostles…to prepare Gods people for works of service.

The Ephesians 5 Fold Ministry Gifts

Adrian Warnock posts a excerpt from Doctor Lloyd Jones, where he believes that the office of pastor / teacher is one office and not two. He also says that he believes the other offices are temporal. If as he says is true he would then have to show that the gifting and work of evangelist is also temporal and no longer for today.

There could possibly be more Biblical proof to show that the office of Evangelist is more temporal than any of the other offices if a literal interpretation was to be made of Paul’s list to the Corinthians.

1Co 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
1Co 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
1Co 12:30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[4] ? Do all interpret?
1Co 12:31 But eagerly desire[5] the greater gifts.
And now I will show you the most excellent way.

Yet I doubt if any one would say that Paul is specifically excluding Evangelists from this list, rather his emphasis is one on ensuring we are loving and using all the gifts for the common good. There is no clear cut Scripture that says there will be no longer Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers and if one was to make a case that they and other supernatural gifts are no longer for today; such as miracles, tongues, interpretation etc, then we also have to say that the gifts of helps and administration which are sandwiched between healing’s and tongues also have to have ceased as well.

Yet I know of no one who teaches that God no longer gifts people with the gift of teaching, administration and helps.

Paul then goes on to say that while he would like all to use the gift of tongues, he would rather they use the gift of prophecy more so. 1 Cor 14:5. If it was, as many teach that Paul is talking about the perfect being the Bible 1Cor 13:10 and therefore tongues and prophecy will be no longer, then Paul would have expanded and taught more in his next paragraphs about how they were to come together without using those gifts.

Yet he doesn’t do that, instead he strongly promotes the use of those gifts, expects them to be used lovingly and therefore shows that they are part of the fruit of the Spirit and that no one is to forbid either the speaking of tongues or prophesy.

When one considers Paul’s and all the other Apostles acceptance of Prophets in the narrative story and that they call other’s Apostles and Evangelists who were not of the original twelve. And that there is no teaching within any of the epistles that God will no longer equip, gift, promote any to those positions, one is hard pressed to make the call that Scripture says that they will cease.

The Holy Spirit

Billy Graham writes in his book, “The Holy Spirit”[1] the story about an Indian who came down the mountains and saw the ocean for the first time. In awe he took a jar and filled it, with the intention to take it back to his people who had never seen the ocean before.

Narrow viewIn the same way this article is like the jar, only instead of being made of glass, its limitations are through its words. For words can never hope to capture the fullness of the glory of the Holy Spirit, for in the same way the ocean must be experienced to gain a full appreciation of its immensity, we too must experience the Holy Spirit to fully appreciate and understand His Immensity, Glory and Mission. Many today limit the Holy Spirit within the confines of the written word of God, trying to understand Him through the limits of those words. There they constrain their understanding of Him to a narrow scope, where he is no longer to be experienced today as he was recorded in the Scriptures as working. Instead they teach and believe that his work has changed to making us rationally understand and believe the propositions of Scripture. Here they become guilty of the sin of Bibliolatry, changing the Trinity to Father, Son and Bible.The full view

In doing this they actually deny the truth of Scripture in that the Holy Spirit is the same God yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. Scripture is not meant to be read that way, it is to be read as a pointer towards the living God, recording for us the ways and means to which we are to experience the Holy Spirit ourselves. Scripture clearly shows us that the Apostles took this experience for all very seriously. Peter tells his audience when asked what they must do to be saved, “Repent, be baptised and then you will receive the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38 and indeed we see this happening with the Christians in Samaria, repenting and accepting Christ for themselves, being baptised and then the Apostles went and ensured that they experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This then is the norm of what should happen in the Christians life. Many in Christendom today though have reversed the order Biblical order in that we receive the Holy Spirit before accepting Christ, for it is God who makes us alive while we are dead in sin and therefore he does this by granting us the Holy Spirit in making us alive. This is a distortion of the Biblical recording of both Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit and the recording of the working of the Holy Spirit.

There are distinctly two workings of the Holy Spirit.

1.) The external working of the Holy Spirit in drawing a unbeliever to accepting Christ.

2.) The baptism of the Holy Spirit which is the initial first experience of repeated infillings of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself taught that there would be an external working of the Holy Spirit Jn16:13 Paul says that no one can call Jesus Lord except through the work of the Holy Spirit 1Cor 12:3. He also goes to great pains to show us that faith comes through hearing the word of God, in the attempt to motivate us to share the Word of God through evangelism. Rom 10:17. . We see this external working of the Holy Spirit at work in Samaria, convicting the Samaritans to the truth of Christ, cutting them deep to the heart. We see the Holy Spirit at work in Peter’s first sermon to the Jews and God fearers who are cut to the heart asking what must we do, to be saved. And again we see this happening to Paul who has an encounter with Jesus, is convicted of his sin and that Jesus is Lord and yet has to wait for the laying on of hands by Ananias to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Acts 9:17 It may appear to the casual observer that there is a episode in the Scriptures where some receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit before being convicted by the external working of the Holy Spirit, and that is the case of Cornelius and his family. Yet if we look closely at the story we notice that his encounter with Christ is similar to the one Paul had, as both encountered the Angel of the Lord, before meeting with a Christian whom the Lord sent. Acts 10:33 the only difference was that they were yet to be baptised in water which Peter soon rectified. Again in Acts 16:25 we read of the Jailer being convicted through the external working of the Holy Spirit, this time through the earthquake – and their subsequent acceptance of the word of God.

Finally we read of some disciples whom Paul met on the road to Ephesus, there he asks them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. This is an important Scripture because it shows us an insight into his ministry that like the Apostles did with the Samaritans, Ananias did with himself, he also ensured that other believers also did not remain content with just believing, but they also received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or if you like the initial experiential experience of being filled with the Spirit. There they showed that the receiving of the Holy Spirit was experiential for they also started prophesying and speaking in tongues. Acts 19:6 We also read of Apollos being like those disciples Paul met, only knowing the baptism of John and that Pricilla and Aquila explained the way to him, but that he taught about Jesus accurately.

nnwzz018.jpgThe reception of the Holy Spirit is a experiential reception, one that though we read about within the pages of Gods word, we experience it our selves outside of our rational understanding.  This experience brings life to the believer, it brings about gifting and draws us close to the heart of God


[1] Graham, Billy The Holy Spirit (Word Books, Texas, 1978) p.1

Adrian Warnock asks this question in reference to something that Doctor Lloyd Jones said in one of his books.

There is nothing, I am convinced, that so ‘quenches’ the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Ghost with regeneration. But it is a very commonly held teaching today, indeed it has been the popular view for many years…”

I was quick to accept this in my initial post on the subject on my other blog Dancing with the Trinity But having reflected further on the subject and specifically what the Doctor says next.

But if you say that they are identical, you do not expect anything further.

Yet there may be some who do hold that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is equal to Salvation / Regeneration who do believe that there can be an ongoing experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit and who may seek the Lord for that fresh infilling. It could more be a matter of semantics and misunderstanding of Theological language rather then truly hardening ones heart against the Spirit.

Which I think Jones would agree with from what he says next.

And if you do not believe that it is possible for you to experience the Spirit of God bearing direct witness with your own spirit that you are a child of God, obviously you are quenching the Spirit. That is why so many Christian people are miserable and unhappy; they do not know anything about crying out, ‘Abba, Father’; or about ‘the Spirit of adoption’. God is a Being away in the far distance; they do not know Him as a loving Father; they do not know that they are His children. They may believe it intellectually, theoretically…

Perhaps he is mixing the experience of the fresh infilling of the Spirit rather then the one off Baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation which he speaks?

I come from the Pentecostal position in that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a one off event, subsequent to salvation, followed by fresh experiences of the infilling of the Spirit.

However I believe and some may think me overly harsh for saying so, that the cessationist doctrines are not Holy Spirit inspired and those who hold and teach the same are guilty of hardening their hearts against the work of the Holy Spirit and perhaps may even come close to, or commit the act of actually blaspheming against the Spirit. Even at best they are guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit and James says that teachers will be doubly judged.

We need to look at the Bible, using doctrine when doctrine is taught, bringing Doctrine alongside the Biblical narrative. We read of three cases in Scripture where Salvation / Regeneration take place before the Baptism of the Holy Spirit happens.

  1. Jesus breathes upon the Disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit .
  2. The Samaritans who accept the Gospel with joy, but did not receive the Holy Spirit until the Apostles went to them.
  3. Paul discovered some believers who had not received the Holy Spirit. We need to note that Paul specifically asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed…to which they replied “what Holy Spirit?”…

Further more in every Scriptural recording, something overt happened to signify the reception of the Spirit – usually with tongues or prophecy. You can read more about that gift here.

The normal teaching regarding the Acts narrative is that it fulfilled the requirements of first the Jews, then Samaritans and then the Gentiles to receive the Holy Spirit and through those 3 incidences the Holy Spirit had been completely given and therefore the Spirit had been given to all. It does seem rather forced to the natural reading of the Scripture according to the way it was documented as history.

The other issue about it, is many who hold to this teaching say you cannot use Acts for doctrinal purposes to those who hold to a more natural reading of the narrative, which is rather hypocritical when their own doctrine has been formed from the same narrative.

In forming our theology of the Holy Spirit we cannot divide any of the authors of the Epistles Doctrine from the narrative story, and read our own western mindset / experience into it. Its by combining both the Biblical narrative with the teachings that we can clearly see that there is a indeed a experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to be had…. and then not only that one of event, but Scripture shows there are times of repeated refreshing s.

I don’t think God cares about honest mistakes in belief when his people are clearly seeking after him. But when hearts are hardened against both the clear teaching of Scripture and against seeking a fresh experience of the Lord and all he would give to them and teaches others the same- then those people are guilty of quenching the Spirit of the Lord.

Being Sifted Like Wheat


I first wrote this and blogged it July 13, 2005. And this is the revised version.

Being sifted like wheat

Since October 17th 2008 I have been thinking and reflecting about the difficulties we have in life and that we face as Christians. It seems that there are times we are constantly under spiritual attack and no matter what we do; our courage fails us right at the time it is crucial that it does not. How often does it seem that we hear the voice of God in what ever way it is that he is talking to us, and yet we don’t do as he has told us; instead we do exactly the opposite?

  • Peter the Apostle knew all about this, Luke records the warning, exhortation and encouragement of the exchange between both Jesus and Peter.

Luk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[1] as wheat.
Luk 22:32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Luk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Here we read that Satan has asked God permission to sift Peter and that he has been given permission to do so. There is another story in the OT about a man called Job who also was sifted by Satan with Gods permission.

Have you ever watched wheat being sifted? With todays society and the readily availability of instant food, I would say probably not. A normal sieve was round about 30 – 40 cm across with sides about 100 mm – 150mm high, and a fine mesh type bottom, some sieves were bigger made of a mesh type material, about the size of a blanket and took two people to operate.

What happens is that you put the harvested wheat with the stalk etc into it and throw it up and down, shaking it, tossing it, so that the wheat is separated from the rest of the plant, and ready for use, either for storage, sowing or grinding into flour. The sifting process is a much-needed process for the grain to be any use.

So we see here that Jesus is telling Peter and though he is talking specifically to Peter, I believe he is also talking talking to the rest of the disciples; that he and they are going to be sifted, to be thrown about, that they will be going through some tough times, but not to worry, he has prayed for Peter / them that they will not fail. John 21:15-17.

Jesus tells us that he has prayed their faith will not fail them, that they will turn back, and in doing so strengthen many. Peter now argues with Jesus, protesting that it would not be so. Jesus declares, it will be so, and this is how it will pan out! And as the story progresses we know that indeed all the disciples bar John deserted Jesus and after the resurrection Jesus also reinstates them all, especially Peter.

How often have we been in the shoes of Peter and the other disciples, our boldness and confidence fleeing from us? Our faith becomes shaken, we get tossed and turned. Perhaps we don’t quite reach the stage Peter and the others did in denying our Lord. Yet for what ever reason we find we are going through a dark night or season of the soul, where we know our walk with the Lord is perhaps not OK. We find the going tough. We lack the wisdom, boldness and even passion to witness to others. Our prayer life lacks the dynamic it once had and we wonder in the deeper recesses of our inner being if we will ever recover that dynamic again? We intend to pray and instead get easily distracted. Or we go through the motions of being a Christian, not enjoying our reading of the word – that is if we do read it. We go through the motions of praying, while deep within we can’t wait for the prayer time to be over. Legalism creeps in, duty replaces joy and intimacy.

Perhaps you don’t know what it is I’m talking about? Praise God for it. Perhaps the time will come for you to experience it, perhaps not. Perhaps you have gone through that and come out the other side wiser for the experience. Or perhaps you are in the middle of such an experience right at this very moment.

If this is you then we have joined company, and we need to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote.

1Co 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Just as Peter was sifted by satan, we to are liable to being sifted by satan in all his subtle and not so subtle ways. Just as Peter was told by Jesus that he would fail, he was also told that his faith would not totally fail him, that he would bounce back and strengthen others.

What ever it is we are facing right now at this very moment, God will not allow us to face more than what we bear and he will also provide a way out, under the shadow of his wings.

Father God, I lift us all up to you, individuals families and friends. Lord I ask that we who are going through the trials of being sifted that you will strengthen us, help us to both know and to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that you are providing a way out. That you will deliver us from the shaking of the evil one.

For those who have come out of such an experience I ask that you will continue to help them to walk with you in joy, in peace, in strength, in the fullness of your spirit, and for those who have not yet been through the sifting process that indeed you will prepare them for such an event if it is to be your will for them to do so. I ask that none of us will ever fall away, to deny you Lord, that we will all grow from strength to strength, faith to faith, in the power of your spirit I ask that you will do this Jesus, shielding us from the power of the evil one.

This is a copy of the word that came to me on Friday night, 18th April during Easter 2003,

To set the mood,
We had gone to church and then went land hunting with my wife and two of my children. I have always been a man of the land, though rover the last few years I have been of it. The ties to the land runs in my blood, and tonight I was reflecting on how you can take the boy from the bush but can’t take the bush from the boy.

Then I felt the Lord had this to say, which I am sharing with you now.
Malachi 4:6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.

To our men of the land.

Tonight I felt the lord had me say this. Men you are in relationship with the land, sometimes you hate it, sometimes you love it and sometimes you wish you could pretend it’s no longer even there. You wrestle with it, to draw the best it can give, you nurture it, you till it, you fertilise it, you seed it, you cull and weed and burn and spray, you even water it when there is water to give, and then you harvest it.


The harvest depends on the amount of nurturing you give it, and on the amount of water it receives.

Guys you can work hard from sun up till sundown working the soil hard to give it its best and it will give you its best it can give you with all the hard work you put into it, but the true harvest depends on the water, the life giving, thirst quenching water, the water that brings healing, the water that brings life, the water that sustains life and even produces new life.


Men of the Land listen to what the Lord would have you hear him say, you work hard for your families, you work hard for yourself, and the words you speak to your family, the words you speak to your self can be like words of water or poison. They can either build up or burn down, they can encourage your wives and sons and daughters to bloom and to blossom and to bear much fruit or they can spray over them like toxin and cause them to wither and die.
Words have the power of life and death, men of the land listen up, many of you feel that you are like wells run dry that you are like dams with a little muddy water left in them that you are like the garden tank hose with no pressure, that you are like a cloud with no water, that you are running dry with nothing else to give.
Men of the land listen up; it is when you are this dry you need to turn to the source of water, the source of living water which is there only for the asking, every one who drinks of the water of the Lord will never thirst again, indeed it will become like a well in you, a spring that flows up to eternal life.
Who is this source of living water? It is none other than our lord and savoir Jesus Christ. Who beckons and calls, “Come to me all who are heavily burdened, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

I ask you, over this Easter will you allow Jesus to refill your tanks?

Craig

Monday 11th April 2005
This is a copy of a prophetic word I felt the Lord give me back in April 2005.

To our Men of the land

Tonight the lord was talking to me about his being a Father and how there is a wound that runs deep within Australia of many being fatherless and that wound is reflected in our churches and across this nation of ours. He has been talking to me about how Australia has roots that run deep of fatherless-ness right from the very beginning of Australian settlement, a wound that caused much wounding of the original inhabitants.
Australia was settled by many children ripped from the care of their parents and sent out here without a father, many men were ripped from their families and sent out here causing an issue of fatherless-ness where they left.
This wound was what was behind the killing of many aborigine men in the land, again causing the issues of fatherless-ness to increase, and then this wounding was the root cause of what caused the men of this land to then rip many aborigine children from their families and caused another deep wounding of fatherlessness.
This wounding on the nation was again compounded by the various wars across that our nation was involved in, where many men were killed or in action while their wives gave birth back home, causing an issue of wounded-ness in these children of being brought up with no father, during world war one may of our men who went to war never came back and the same with the second world war, those who did come back found it hard to be a father to their children and the cycle was growing worse and worse. Then the Vietnam war came and men went to war and caused much heartache and brought home much heartache, and as a result again many children increasingly were being raised up with no father.
Again we are at war, this ugly issue of Fatherlessness is again increasingly raising it’s ugly head, only the spiritual stronghold behind this is worse, fathers are abandoning their children in many ways, one is through abortion, another is to leave their families and there kids for a life of their own, and the 3rd issue is that men are opting out of father hood altogether, deciding not to have families, deciding not to have children at all. Then the lord spoke to me and said,
There is a deep wound in the men of the land, a wound that has been caused by fatherless ness, a wounding that runs deep into the very soul of Australia, a wounding that is festering and weeping, a wound that is gaping open and is ugly and is a wound that can not be left to heal on it’s own, it’s a wound that can only be healed by me. Men of the land, you need to turn to me and to come to me as your father, you need to lay down all your hurts, you need to lay down all your pretences, you need to lay down all your pride and come to me and allow me to be your father. Men of the land listen up, I am the father of all fathers, I have seen and I know the weaknesses and the failings of your own natural fathers, the very weaknesses and failings that were caused by them being wounded by less than perfect fathers, men of the land listen up, you cannot do it on your own, you can not continue to be independent, you cannot continue to pretend you are not hurting, men of the land, many of you are orphans, many of you have no father, many of you have never known a true father and for many of you wish that you never had a father. Men of the land listen up, I am the only perfect father, to the men of the church you need to get a revelation of me as your father, you need to get this revelation deep into your soul, deep into your spirit, and you need to bring about that revelation into your community. Men of the land listen up, your communities are hurting because of fatherless-ness, your children are hurting, your walk with me is hurting, men of the land turn to me,

Deu 14:29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

And

Psa 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Men of the land I am calling you to stop the curse in this land, I am calling you to me and for you to rise up and defend the cause of the fatherless and for you to turn to me, to seek my face and for the stronghold of fatherlessness to be broken in this nation.

Men of the land listen to me, my son died for you, and through him I have called you to be my children, I have called you because of my son, come to me all you who are heavenly laden, cast your cares on me, my yoke is easy, my burden is light, come to me and cast all your cares on me because I care for you.

craig

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