Our appropriate earthly conduct as members of the Body of Christ (4.1-6.9) (cont.)
Walk in love (4.17-5.21). Christian love is firstly and most importantly expressed in purity of life and human relationships, living within the divinely ordained boundaries for them all. All extra-marital relationships or practices are wrong. Unconverted Gentiles who do not know God, nor recognise His laws, may think otherwise, but Christians follow the exemplary life of the Lord Jesus, and maintain holiness and strict righteousness. Absolute truthfulness and honesty in speech is also required of members of the Body of Christ, as are strict restraint in anger, and giving to others rather than stealing from them. Sins of speech are especially difficult to refrain from, but are included amongst those things that grieve the Holy Spirit who indwells us all. In Christ we have a wonderful example of walking in sacrificial forgiving love, as when He offered Himself to God His Father as the Burnt Offering, giving Himself completely to God for us, to please Him, and to secure our acceptance with God in Himself. Here there was no retaliation, no wrongdoing, no impurity, no insincerity. Again, Gentile sinners behave differently from Christ, but He is our example, not them. We are now "light in the Lord", no longer "Having the understanding darkened", so we have no excuse for misbehaviour. We are not to indulge in wine either, but are to be continually controlled by the Holy Spirit within us. We are to express our spiritual joy in Christ by singing spiritual songs, not worldly ones, and, rather than grumbling, give thanks to God our Father who has given all things worthwhile to us in His Son.
Walk in harmony (5.22-6.9). There is to be mutual respect and submission to Gods will in all our earthly relationships, including those of children and parents, and servants and masters, in either direction, but especially in marriage, because this is designed to be an illustration to the world and to the heavenly hosts of the truth concerning Christ and the Church universal as His Body and Bride for eternity. How careful husbands and wives need to be not to mar the illustration, and how far short we fall! But this is Gods ideal relationship for expressing this truth, which is here stated to be a great mystery. Again, and supremely in the marriage relationship, the twin essential requirements of love and holiness are both emphasised. Love is self-giving and sacrificial. Holiness is absolute and exclusive of all defilement. Nothing could surely be more calculated to produce an appropriate response in us either as marriage partners, or as members of the Church, than the words, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (5.25-27). If the Church, here viewed primarily in its universal aspect, cost Christ everything He was at Calvary, can we not bear His sanctifying ministry by the application of the Word of God to our imperfect lives now, so that He may be satisfied with His work for and in us in eternity? And can we not employ our spiritual gifts in love upon our fellow-members in His Body to further the same process to the same end - a "glorious church", presented to Himself at His coming for us?
Our inevitable spiritual conflict as the Body of Christ (6.10-24)
Our unseen spiritual enemies in the heavenlies. Finally, but very importantly, members of the Church need to realise that their very privileged position and prominence in Gods purposes in redemption attracts to them added danger of attack from the hosts of the Evil One who also presently inhabit the "high (or heavenly)" places in which we are involved in Christ. These heavenly places appear to be a vast worldwide spiritual arena of conflict between the forces of God, on the one side, and the forces of Satan, on the other side. In several passages of the Scriptures, such as the opening chapters of the book of Job, the curtain is drawn aside on scenes in heaven in which Satan is allowed, or even challenged by the Lord Himself, to oppose believers on earth and to attempt to bring about their spiritual and physical downfall. If this occurred during Old Testament times, when the New Testament Church was unknown to man or devil, how much more must this be the case today during the age of grace and the Church? Paul assures all believers in the Body of Christ that we face a constant warfare against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies; we cannot escape it. "The evil day", when Satan attacks us and our faith by some either subtle or obvious temptation or persecution, is sure to come to all of us more than once during our lives. We must therefore be prepared to face our foes whenever this happens, perhaps unexpectedly and through human agencies.
Gods spiritual armour. Our gracious God has anticipated our need of protection from the enemys fiery darts. He has provided a full defensive and offensive armour for us, but we must put it on before it can be of any value to us. The defensive armour consists of qualities of spiritual character which we should either have received, or have been cultivating, as sanctified members of the Body of Christ. Remember, that we are linked in Christ to the throne of the universe and every spiritual blessing. Our resources in Christ are vast and available to us, if we are living in touch with Him. First, there is truth to counter Satans lies. Second, there is righteousness: "We stand in the imputed righteousness of Christ, and we walk in the imparted righteousness of the Holy Spirit" (Wiersbe). Third, there is peace - the readiness to preach the gospel of peace in a divided and troubled world. Fourth, there is faith to counter doubt and unbelief. Fifth, there is salvation, perhaps here thought of primarily in its final aspect as deliverance from the presence of sin in us at the coming of our Lord for us.
The offensive weapons are twofold. First, the spoken Word of God, applied in the power of the Spirit to counter all evil suggestions and other attacks. Second, the weapon of "all-prayer", which is able to reach the ear of the One who controls the universe and brings to pass all His purposes in answer to it. The question therefore remains, "Have we availed ourselves individually of this armour?", for without it we will fail miserably against our powerful enemies.
Our victory already won in Christ at Calvary. As with everything else in our spiritual lives, our victory over Satan and his hosts was assured to us in Christ the moment we trusted Him. Christ defeated Satan decisively at Calvary when He turned his chief weapon, death, against him and rose victoriously from the dead. We do not need to fight to gain the victory, but simply to stand firm in Christ to maintain the victory already won by Him. In Christ we have come into a wonderful spiritual heritage, which we simply need to defend constantly. We do so with spiritual, not carnal or worldly, weapons. We are not to engage in this worlds sad conflicts in the professed name of Christ, but to engage Gods enemies and fight only His battles in the individual hearts and lives of men and women around us to build and defend His Church.
So, we have traced through the letter to the Ephesians the subject of the mystery of the Church universal, the Body, Temple, and Bride of Christ. Our considerations have taken us from Pauls exposition of our unique blessings in the counsels of the Godhead in eternity, through time and the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ, whose position we now share, to the moment when Christ will come to call us to His side as His blood-bought Bride. Then we will be cleansed from all defilement of earth and sin, to share eternity with Him. How great is Gods masterpiece of redemption, how vast is our privilege in Christ, how wonderful is our Saviour, and how great is our need of protection from failure! As we view our local churches with all their different problems and fallible fellow-saints, may this study of Gods ideal for the whole Church of this age motivate and enable us to represent our Lord in our own localities in a way that is more consistent with His glory and for the blessing and help of others, both saints and those as yet unsaved, around us. Concluded.