JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Be ye empowered in the Lord and in the might of the strength of him” Part 1
April 30, 2011, 8:07 pm
Filed under: P Letter to the Ephesians

This last concluding section of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus is a staggering if not mind blowing thought regarding our life in Christ. It seems I am treading on words that while many have tried to comment on is at the same time brings me squarely into the reality of living by Christ’s life.

When I read this last section of Paul’s letter to the body of Christ in Ephesus my first impression is that I am so a babe in Christ, I have not so learned Christ. This section seems to bring out key points Paul has been describing in his letter and previous letters, points that for Paul, seem to be of vital importance to the life and health of His body. It seems that everything about “his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” hinges on the ecclesia, the family of God, the sons of God, the body of Christ understanding this section. I’ve read this section numerous times, have read numerous commentaries about it, but I think it really boils down to having spiritual sight. Seeing Christ and His body and the life we now live together by His life. I have been thinking and mulling over this section off and on now for months. And now sense the right timing to share what I think Christ in me is saying. And by no means is God done sharing His riches from this section!

There are some things I think the Spirit of Christ in me is saying from what I read in Scripture, what I have seen learning to live by His life together in community with some other brothers and sisters, and in daily life with my family and at work in the public school system here in the United States. Paul begins this section with “For the rest, be ye empowered in Lord and in the might of the strength of him.” (1) His last words, so to speak to this body of Christ, is as they learn Christ together, to live by the indwelling Logos of God, the Holy Spirit, we are empowered by Christ Himself. It is Christ Jesus, when He is Lord, our source of life, who gives us His strength. It is a spiritual strength, it is from within and is manifested through His body, through us mightily. And Christ’s life, His power and strength, always manifests love and grace. Could it be that love and grace displayed in the body of Christ are what is mighty to the Lord? The body “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part,” as each member shares with each other their “measure of the gift of Christ.” We are in Christ and He is in us, as we abide in Christ, as we hear Him and are taught by Him through one another we learn Christ. This is what Paul means to “put on Christ” to “put on the new man.” This is why Paul then says “Put ye on the whole armour of God.” The whole armor of God is Christ Jesus Himself! Using the imagery of a soldier, whom Paul has seen too often these past few years, he is well aware, as well as everyone else in the Roman world of that day, what armor looks like. But to God, putting on Christ, our armor, is a family affair done by and through the family of God by Christ Himself.

As sons of God we are no longer citizens of this world, in Christ there are no longer any distinctions, we “are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” We are one family, a spiritual family, no longer of this earth because of Him, He is now our life and this life is a spiritual life, it is Christ’s life, a new life, the real life. Our conflict, our problem, is the same that Christ Jesus had when He was on this earth. It is a spiritual conflict. Just as we are to see others no longer after the flesh but as in Christ, the problem or conflict is that “the craftinesses of the devil” tries to make us turn away from Christ and His perspective and life and to see things from an earthly perspective, a perspective that sees conflict as being about “blood and flesh,” conflict with other people and with our flesh. But it is not about other people, it is not about a brother or sister in Christ and it is not about people who are not in Christ. How often we try to “get back” at someone or think suspiciously or wrongly of others and so live by the flesh and not by Christ. It is not even about our flesh, because our flesh was crucified on the cross with Christ! So brothers and sisters when something happens that brings us into conflict with a brother or sister or even with our flesh that is not from Christ. The problem is with this world and the evil forces behind this world.

Our conflict, the same as that that we read in the gospels and the New Testament letters is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of darkness, against the spiritual hosts of evil in the heavenlies.” Our conflict is “the craftinesses of the devil” trying to convince us that our conflicts are with people and our flesh, instead of seeing the conflict being with the world’s system of ruling over and dominating others and the spiritual forces behind it. The devil tries to convince us that our problem is also with our flesh and so we must live by an outward set of rules or laws to rule the flesh. It is interesting that some of the same or similar words Paul uses in this section of his letter are those of Jesus when speaking to His disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.” Jesus said that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” How “the craftinesses of the devil” has reduced many in the body of Christ to a system of ruling over and dominating others, living by a set of rules and laws to control the flesh, quenching the very life of Christ from the members of the body preventing them from being empowered by the Lord together by His strength and so preventing the manifestation His life of love and grace to the world.

We are able “to stand against the craftinesses of the devil” by seeing what our conflict really is what it really is about and putting on Christ together. So together we “take up the whole armor of God,” learning Christ together, we are able “to resist in the day of evil and all things having wrought to stand.” When things that “causes us labor, pain, and sorrow” (2) things that are “evil” we can resist by looking at the evil for what it is, something to try and cause us to live by the flesh to be “captured by the same spirit you oppose” (as Frank Viola would put it) and the world’s system. The devil would like nothing more for us to manifest the old man to live contrary to Christ and so mock our Lord, to make Christ a servant of sin. But learning Christ together, living by His life we manifest grace and love, we can resist the temptation to strike out against others or to try and dominate others or set up rules to control our flesh and the flesh of others. We stand, by standing in Christ who is our life.

Almost every commentary I’ve read or sermon I’ve heard the emphasis seems to be almost always with something we do, a focus on works, a focus on controlling our flesh, the very opposite of Paul’s thought here. If Paul has already pointed out that we are empowered by Christ and His strength, then obviously there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves, it all must be of Christ. I think the imagery Paul uses is something like what we would say when trying to grasp something or to learn something, for example one such phrase is “put our arms around it.” I think that’s Paul’s point when he says “belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” We put our arms around knowing Christ by living by His life together. He is our life, we live as His new creation, and we grow up in Him by building each other “up in love, as each part,” each member shares with each other their “measure of the gift of Christ” and manifest His life of grace and love together.

When we learn Him together, we will know Him better. We will know Him as our “truth” and we will “speak the truth” by faith, as our “righteousness” and we will “walk in love” by faith, and as our “peace” and we will “be at peace with all men” by faith. He will be our spiritual bread, our life, as we abide in Him together. As a result we will see ourselves as “light in the Lord” and “walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” The flesh will be seen as dead and His life our everything. The world will be seen as a dead thing contrary to Christ and His life the real life.

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 575.
(2) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 211.


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