Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. [NIV]
I’ve mentioned before that words spark thought for me. Today was an interesting variation on that. I read verse eight several times before I realized I’d been subconsciously adding the word [IN] before the word “darkness.” Dropping the [IN] and reading “you were once darkness” changed my whole perspective on what I’d read. It has reminded me this Word is not only timeless but it’s still alive and well. Darkness is not a place I was “IN” but the far more ugly reality of “what I was.” It says it right there but I missed it.
I re-read those verses thankful for the specific words of hope I found there, words like “now you are light in the Lord” and “the fruit of the light.” The emphasis on “WHAT I was” [darkness] has now been dramatically changed because of God’s intervention through Jesus in my life to “what I WAS” [past tense]. “Once darkness” was changed to “the fruit of the light” and that is the joyful connection to Advent I share with you in December, 2020.
That first “Advent” in Bethlehem was God’s intervention in the world He’d created. His choice was to make Himself visible once more to redeem His people and free them from their dependence on their own best efforts to dispel the darkness that plagued their lives. Jesus was born to reveal God’s promise to ordinary people who were “once darkness.” The “Advent of Light” could forever change their emphasis from knowing “there was GOD” [hope] into the new reality that “God was THERE!”
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Ephesians 3:1 RSV For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things; 10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
Stewardship: Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for
the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.a
Stewardship is easily defined. The mystery lies in the phrase that follows that word in this passage, “of God’s grace.” This great evangelist, held in such esteem by people of faith all these generations later, is reminding us grace is the mystery purposefully designed to encourage the diligence of people of faith to “see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things.” Don’t miss the footnote “in[by].“ Prepositions show relationship. “In” is about position and “by” is about closeness. Paul [and the translators] have used those two letter words to emphasize this truth; the closest we will come to solving the mystery “of God’s grace” and our stewardship of it in this life is to recognize our position in God and stay close to Him through “the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Ephesians 3:17-19 MSG “And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” MSG 3:17-19
aHolman Bible Dictionary
In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organisations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Eph 6:10-13 [Phillips]
Remember playing dress up when you were a child? You were trying on a new identity with old clothes imagining what your future might look like. That was only pretend and mostly those old clothes didn’t fit quite right. Now God has given us something better than imagination for our destiny. His custom fit spiritual body armor is what protects us from the flaws of our own imperfection and enables us to look our best as we learn to live His identity as our destiny.
• truth as your belt
• righteousness your breastplate
• the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet
• salvation as your helmet
• the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God
• faith as your shield
Eph 6:14-18 [Phillips]
“Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground.”
NIV Eph 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”c 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
c Gen 2:24
This part of Ephesians 5 is a challenge because it’s familiar. Countless, is how I’d describe the number of times I’ve read or heard these verses and familiarity tends to become like unconscious editing. So, here’s what we already know about submission:
– Wives: submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
– Husbands: just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
It’s so easy to massage that truth about submission into something related to behavior that soothes our conscience instead of letting it change our relationship to each other and to the church we love “out of reverence for Christ.” I know about that personally. I also know there is a reality check that challenges me to look at how I am living that truth.
As a wife can you honestly look at your relationship to the Lord and integrate that into your relationship to your husband? Or from the other side of the issue, does your relationship to your husband look like your relationship to Jesus? No one else can write the rules of what your submission should look like but your honest answers to those two questions is the essence of true submission that makes reverence for Christ visible to the world. How’re you doing?
Now husbands, here’s your first question: How does your relationship to your wife give evidence of your love for the church? Or from the other side of that issue does what happens in your personal relationship to your wife bring honor to the church? No one else can guess your answers but their honesty is what makes it possible to honor your bride as well as the Bride of Christ, the church. How’re you doing?
EPH 5:13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” ESV
These words about Christ and light reminded me of John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I assumed Paul was echoing John but a chronological timeline of the Bible showed Paul was martyred before John was even written. What first seemed like an echo became instead Paul’s faithful voice of personal experience pleading for all to wake up and see the light!
Paul wrote these words about the same Lord who’d confronted him with blinding light on that long ago road to Damascus: “Christ will shine on you.” He knew their reality can make light visible even to conflicted hearts. There’s no amount of human intellect that can explain the process that changes ambivalence toward God into living faith. There’s no amount of good preaching that can convince a heart to respond to Christ. There’s no amount of scientific proof that can prove salvation has occurred, or explain how an in-dwelling Holy Spirit can be an actual reality. That, by definition, is the mystery of Faith. Faith is not an echo of anyone else’s intellect or truth. “It becomes visible” only when individual hearts are exposed by the Light himself and the “light of life” becomes personal experience.
The notable JB Phillips New Testamenta says “For light is capable of “showing up” everything for what it really is. It is even possible (after all, it happened to you!) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also. Thus God speaks through the scriptures: Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
aJB Phillips: English clergyman who studied classical Greek at Cambridge University and personally translated the New Testament into modern language.
EPH 4:26 “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. ESV
One easy response to conflict and anger is the the ostrich effect: a cognitive bias that causes people to avoid information that they perceive as potentially unpleasant.
The ostrich effect may be comfortable but it has no power to make things right. Anger is uncomfortable but it’s powerful and often feels right. Don’t miss the reality this Scripture warns us of; “In your anger do not sin.” Your personal faith is the power over those emotions of anger and conflict. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” and give “the devil a foothold.” He plans to steal the power of your faith in the darkness.
NIV EPH 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
No one would dispute our world is desperately in need of peace and unity, right? Maybe the problem is we’re not taking Scripture at it’s word. Let’s try that! It’s so much easier said than done, though, because peace and unity requires being…
– Humble: a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.
– Gentle: showing a mild, kind, or tender temperament or character.
– Patient: tolerate delays, problems, suffering without being annoyed or anxious.
– Bearing: a determination of position
Those qualities are a difficult reminder of their specific purpose; to point us to the need of a position to attach them to – “bearing with one another in love.”
Of course, I believe those things are a necessary part of peace and unity. Of course, I want those qualities and the love to go with them. Unfortunately there’s another “of course.” Of course, peace and unity wouldn’t be nearly as hard if everyone would just agree with me.
More than ever before I realize that humility, gentleness, and patience are clearly elusive parts of love that sometimes slow my journey of faith. If that is truth, then the original meanings of peace and unity are worth exploring.
– Eirēnēs, translated peace means joining what’s been separated to make one again
– Henotēta, translated unity means oneness and/or in unison
My conclusion is this: The “unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” is like a two-way street all of us have to travel. Peace and unity are not dependent on which side of the road you’re on. “Humble, gentle, patient and bearing” are the necessary speed bumps of faith that slow us down so we pay attention to these absolute truths: “There is one body and one Spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.” That one-ness can rejoin what has been separated and get us over all the speed bumps “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Read Ephesians 4 as a word-for-word translation
NLT Ephesians 3:14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e] 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
There’s no higher praise to God than these Words Paul has written. The faith given when the Holy Spirit moves into your heart is what makes it Christ’s home. That’s when the housekeeping begins. Housekeeping refers to the management of duties and chores involved in the running of a household, even your heart. It reminded me of this writing by Robert Boyd Munger so I’ve included the PDF below. It’s simple enough for anyone to recognize themselves in it and profound enough to change your heart.
MSG Eph 3:8 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.
ESV 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
NLT 8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.
What you see above are three different versions of the same verse listed one after another. The first is an esteemed paraphrase and the other two are translations. The Word of God still has the power to remind us it’s purpose is our purpose too. Put yourself in Paul’s place and read these inspired words as if they’re your own.
“And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.”
Combining three different versions of this one verse has become an exercise of the heart that makes use of repetition to emphasize the clarity of their purpose: the “privilege” to tell people about the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” It’s also become a contemporary application that confirms the Word of God is still alive and able to inspire the heart of His people to make it very personal.
This downloadable PDF file has directions on how to use your internet access to read many versions of a single verse Bible reference in list form.
NLT Eph 2:19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
ESV Eph 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[sojourners] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[IN] the Spirit.
Those [footnote] brackets have become a valuable alert in Scripture which hold gifts designed to broaden our faith. The carefully thought out phrases or words within those brackets are so much more than the work of dedicated translators. Footnotes matter because they are one way God uses to reveal the fullness of His truth through the many translations of His Word. They challenge us to consider even a simple two-letter preposition like “IN” as a breath of fresh air that opens the eyes, the mind and the heart to greater understanding. [IN] is a footnote of fulllness that reveals God’s heart for our personal growth.
NLT: “you…being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” Those are familiar and true words with the blessing of Good News that we are the dwelling place where “God lives by His Spirit.”
ESV: “you…being built together into a dwelling place for God by[IN] the Spirit.” There’s the same familiarity of truth and blessing but with the Good News broadened by the emphasis of a simple [IN]. God ‘lives by His Spirit” throughout all time because “we are carefully joined together in” Christ as “saints and members of the household of God” to enable us to live “for God [IN] the Spirit.”