Introduction to Study of Ephesians 4

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Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Ep.4.22-24_1We have now come to a new section of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The subjects of these last three chapters are the conduct of the church and the vocation of the believer. We have learned of the heavenly calling of the believer, and now we come to the believer’s manner of life, his earthly walk. This is not a worldly walk but it is an earthly walk. The true believers [are] seated in the heavenlies in Christ. Christ is the Head of the body and He is seated at God’s right hand. But the church is to live down here on this earth.

In chapters 1-3 we have considered the calling, construction, and the constitution of the church. In this last section of the epistle we shall consider the conduct of the church, the confession of the church, and the conflict of the church. The church is a new man; in the future the church will be a bride; and the church is also a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

In the first three chapters we have been on a mountain peak of the transfiguration, probably the highest spiritual point in the New Testament. That is the reason we spent so much time in those chapters. In this last division, we descend to the plane of living where we confront a demon-possessed world and a skeptical mob. It is right down where the rubber meets the road. Are we able to translate the truths of the mountain top into shoe leather? Are we able to stand and walk through the world in a way that is pleasing to God. Our Lord said that we are in the world but not of the world.

It has been stated that Ephesians occupies the same position theologically as the book of Joshua does in the Old Testament. Now we come to the position where this truth is manifest. Joshua entered the land of promise on the basis of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. It was his be right of promise, and he led the children of Israel over the Jordan into the land. Passing over Jordan is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We as believers have been brought into the promised land. that is where you and I live—at least we should be living in resurrection territory today.

Joshua had t appropriate the land by taking possession of it for the enjoyment of it and for blessing in the land. Possession is the great word in the book of Joshua. Although enemies and other obstacles stood in his way, Joshua had to overcome and occupy.

Position was a key word in the first half of Ephesians—God has blessed us “with all spiritual blessings.” God has given them over to us, but are we walking down here in possession of them? The children of Israel had been promised their land, but it remained a “never-never” land to them until they entered it. “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses” (Joshua 1.3). God says, “Joshua, all of it is yours, but you will enjoy only that which you lay hold of.”

Now the believer is privileged to move in and occupy the “all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.” However, the unsearchable riches in Christ must be searched out with the spiritual Geiger counter, which is the Word of God. Up until now the epistle has been glorious declarations, but now there will be commands. Those who have been called to such an exalted place are now commanded to a way of life which is commensurate with the calling.

Some people dwell on the first part of the epistle and become rather super-duper saints, very spiritual. I remember a family like this when I first came to Southern California. They attended the church which I pastored but were not members. They were lovely, active people. I asked them one day why they didn’t join the church. They looked up to the ceiling and said, “We’re members of the invisible church,” and fluttered their eyelids. I have learned that a lot of these folk who are members of the “invisible” church are really invisible—invisible on Sunday night and invisible on Wednesday night. In fact, they are invisible when you need help from them. Now, my friend, let’s be practical about this: the invisible church is to make itself visible in a local assembly.

We have come to the practical side of Ephesians, the earthly conduct of the church; and in this chapter the church is portrayed as a new man. The new man is to exhibit himself down here. The members of the invisible church are to make themselves visible. They are to be extroverts, if you please, and they are to get out the Word of God.

What follows here is restricted to those who are in Christ. The Spirit of God is talking to saved people. If you are not a Christian, God is not asking you to do the commands in this epistle. First, you must become a child of His through faith in Christ; you must become a member of His [family]. What follows in this epistle is for those who have been redeemed and have heard the Word of truth. Dead men cannot walk no matter how insistently they are urged to walk. The dead man must first be made alive. Paul has told us that we were dead in trespasses and sins. That is the condition of all who are lost. The top sergeant doesn’t go out to the cemetery and yell, “”Attention! Forward march!” If he did, there certainly wouldn’t be any marching. Nobody would move. They first must have life. It is interesting that the religions are saying to a dying world, “Do something and you will be somebody.” God says just the opposite: “Be somebody and then you can do something.” If you are not a Christian, you just stay on the sidelines and listen. You will learn what God would ask of you if you were going to become a believer; and when you look around you, you will know whether or not the saints are living as God want them to live.

For a complete study of Ephesians, see Bible Doctrine of the Church.

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