When we accept His pursuit and His Mohar, when He places His Name on us and seals us with His Holy Spirit we then find ourselves in the waters of the Mikvah. In coming to the mikvah we are accepting His pursuit of us and telling Him that we are willing to follow, to take up our cross and follow Him daily as Luke 9 tells us to do.
Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”(NIV) For Jesus it was Him telling His Father, “I’m ready to pursue this course of marriage. I’m ready to pursue my Bride and I’m ready to pay the Mohar. I know where it goes, it goes to me paying the Mohar and I’m willing to follow”. That’s why the Father could say, “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.” John let’s us know that the reason the Father loves Him is because He laid down His life. He was willing to pay the Mohar.
For us though, remember, it’s all about our response to Him because we cannot come to Him unless He draws us. So everything we do is in response to Him. I Peter 3:20b-22 “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”(NIV) Our Mikvah is not about clean verses unclean, not the removal of dirt from the body. Do you remember as we accept His Mohar, remember from Hebrews 9, His Mohar redeems us and cleanses our conscience. Only with that good conscience can we respond in any way to Him.
I want to talk to you about that phrase, “pledge of a good conscience” because it is essential, it is the whole crux of the matter. The word “pledge”, if you have a different translation you might see the word “response” or “answer”. That word in the Greek literally means “question”. What question might that be? Take a wild guess. Will you marry Me? Will you marry Me? What we do is a response to His question. It is our pledge, our vow, our answer and our response. It is our “yes” to Him.
It’s important that you let your yes be yes. Numbers 30 let’s us know that vows and promises and pledges are irrevocable. They’re forever binding. So we give Him our “yes” in the waters of the Mikvah. We give it to Him out of the good conscience He has given us, the conscience that He purchased for us. Did you catch that? We give Him our “yes” through the waters of the Mikvah, that physical act, out of that good conscience that He purchased for us.
There is a second part, though, to our Mikvah. Do you know that when we come to Christ were entering a nation? We are acknowledging our rebirth into the nation of Israel by the Name of Jesus. I want to share with you what happens when anyone converts to Judaism to this day. A convert to Judaism, whether male or female, is required to immerse themselves in the mikvah waters two or three times marking their rebirth as members of the people of Israel. Isn’t that interesting? Are you aware that in very early Christian history it was very popular that when one was baptized they would be immersed three times, in the Name of the Father, in the Name of the Son, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit and some denominations still practice that? Upon doing so, they exit the waters as a Jew, a citizen of the nation.
Unfortunately, the Christian church has distanced itself from it’s heritage and roots in Judaism. Even though the Old Testament is still read and preached, the church has in a lot of ways removed itself from that same Old Testament. Yes, we are under the New Covenant, but that New Covenant writes the Old Covenant on our hearts. To say it another way, it writes the Israelite Constitution on our hearts. Therefore, we are exiting the waters of our mikvah as citizens of God’s Kingdom, members of God’s household.
This leads us to Acts 2:38-39 where Peter responds to the people on the day of Pentecost when the people ask the disciples, “What shall we do?” “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”(NIV)
In other words, go through the waters of the Mikvah, everyone of you. You see, on this particular day and in very early church history there was no separation in the accepting of the pursuit, the accepting of the Mohar, the coming of the Holy Spirit and going through the waters of the Mikvah. Today, we tend to think of those as separate steps or stages. But for them, it was all one fluid motion.
Whereas, we tend to dissect it into different pieces, making salvation more about us getting the steps right than on the work of the Messiah and God’s ability to call us and justify us through His Holy Spirit. Upon exiting the mikvah waters they had re-identified themselves with Yeshua and the New Covenant. They became true citizens of the Kingdom of God, God’s Israel, God’s Royal family (His princes and princesses) under King Yeshua, God’s Ambassadors, God’s Holy Priesthood under His High Priest Jesus Christ.
We also find in Isaiah 44:3-5 the following words: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. One will say, `I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, `The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel.”(NIV)
All who go through this process of Kiddushin, go through the waters of the Mikvah and receive the Holy Spirit, it’s all one fluid motion, remember that. Don’t try to divide it in your head like we often do today. It is all one fluid motion. Those who do that, who receive the Spirit, look what it says, one will say I belong to the Lord, another will call himself by the name of Jacob, still another will write on his hand ‘the Lord’s’ and will do what, will take the name Israel. Those of us who are not Jewish by birth, we have to take on that name because it is completely foreign to us. We take on the name of Israel. Therefore our Mikvah gives Jesus our pledge or our answer to His marriage proposal and confers our citizenship as part of Israel.
I know that the book of Romans can be a very deep, deep theological book, but I am going to attempt to sum it up in just a few sentences to show how it fits our theme here. First of all we are dead in our sins in need of a redeemer. We call on the name of the Lord and we are baptized, we go through the water of the Mikvah in the name of Christ and receive and live according to His Spirit, the Seal. We are brought into the nation of Israel and made God’s children and heirs of His promise. And Israel lives how? According to the Spirit by giving sacrifices acceptable to God, living sacrifices. That’s the book of Romans. If you ever wondered why that talk of Israel is right in the middle of the book, that’s why. Because when we call on the Name of Jesus and go through the waters of the Mikvah we are entering the nation. The blessed nation of Israel.
I want to make it very clear that I am in no way advocating Replacement Theology in any way, shape, or fashion. I do not believe the “church” replaces Israel and God still has some very specific promises for the land of Israel and the Jewish people. However, we are now included in those promises in the way God sees fit because we have been grafted into that nation and those Jews who place their faith in Yeshua will also be grafted back into that nation. We are all one nation. There is not one way of salvation for the Jew and one for the Gentile, but one way for all, Jesus Christ. My Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith have their part to play and I have mine as a non-Jewish believer and God decides what those will be. The “church” does not become the new Israel, but upon belief Jews enter into God’s true Israel – the Assembly of the Saints. To say the the “church” becomes the new Israel separates the Old Covenant from the New and thereby separates God’s story into two stories. God’s story is one story. It is one truth and Jesus/Yeshua is the center of all of it. You see, all of the Bride awaits the same beloved Bridegroom!
Today I want to talk about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Everything up to this point in Ephesians has been about unity and what that is, what that looks like and to some extent how do we do this, but beginning in the passage we are going to discuss today Paul gets down to the brass tax so to speak on how to administrate the unity of the body. Here is the passage:
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.(HCSB)
We are to be empowered by the Lord and by His awesome power, the two words here for “vast strength” are two different words that could both be translated “power”. Paul is trying to remind us of the power he described to us earlier in the letter when he referred to the resurrection power. In fact, the two Greek words used here are the exact same words. This is power power, awesome power, resurrection power, from God Himself. This is the only power in the universe that is capable of changing and transforming lives. Only the resurrection power can resurrect in us what is dead in sin, yet created, created in His image, to be alive in Him.
Not only does God equip us with His power for the task, but He also gives us the tools we need to wield that power. To be sure this task will take the full armor of God, not just a part of it. We are in a battle against the realm of darkness itself, not mere flesh and blood men and women, but the original liar himself and his demons. They are crafty and we must be alert and on guard every moment so that in the end we will be left standing.
So, what is this armor? Obviously, Paul is using the Roman armor as a template, but is that all? If we look closely at this armor we will find its pieces referred to in the Old Testament as well. Remember, this gospel is about the mystery that makes us one with God and each other. The Old and New Testament are not two disconnected pieces, but two parts of a whole. One will always refer and define the other. The Old Testament, will define the New Testament for us and the New Testament explains much about the Old Testament that was hidden, yet right there. God is the God and author of both. Both of them together tell His story. So let’s look at what the Old Testament has to say about this awesome armor.
The first part of the armor is the belt of truth. We see that the Messiah is clothed in the belt of righteousness in Isaiah 11 where He is judging for the poor and needy and slaying the wicked. He will do that in righteousness, but notice the section before that when the Spirit rests on Him — the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord — in fact the fear of the Lord would be His delight. In following the Messiah we can only do what is right and properly discern when we are listen to the Spirit of the Lord and the fear of the Lord is our delight. This belt holds the inner garments in place. For us only the truth can hold our inner being in place. He, the Messiah, is the truth. As we follow Him and strive to live righteous lives He and His truth holds us in place to continue the fight. We cannot fight the good fight in ignorance or falsehood.
Next, we put on the breastplate of righteousness. You see after knowing and believing the truth and in the Truth we must put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from deception that leads us in the paths of death, not life. We are to strive in the fruit of the Spirit, part of which is self-control, to do the right that God calls us to do. In addition, the Messiah not only wore a belt of righteousness that held His inner part in place (remember He is the truth – John 14:6). He was always alert and clear minded, never distracted by His own thoughts or thoughts from the enemy. Can you imagine your prayer life like this and how awesome that would be?
The Messiah also wore a breastplate of righteousness. He covered His heart with doing what pleases God. Never did He waver. In Isaiah 59 15a-18a it says, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes.”(NIV) In this passage we see that His own righteousness sustained Him and was His breastplate as He did the work of salvation and He will be wearing that same breastplate when He repays wrath to His enemies.
In Psalm 132:9 we read the statement about Israel, “May your priests be clothed in righteousness..”(NIV) You see He is the High Priest with His breastplate in place, remember the High Priest of Israel wore a breastplate with all the jewels of the tribes of Israel on it, and we are called a royal priesthood in I Peter 2:9. Our breastplate reflects His – our righteousness reflects His righteousness. We will never win the battles in life without it. We cannot do our own thing and expect Him to bless it. We cannot follow the deceptions of our heart and expect to win the battle against the enemy, at that point we are following darkness and not the light and we will fall.
Thirdly, we put on the sandals of “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”(NIV). Remember the gospel of peace is the good news of oneness with God, the mystery. We get to proclaim that to others, which is what Jesus called us to in the Great Commission. We are to take His message to the ends of the earth. In Isaiah 52:7(NIV) it says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”" That is the awesome blessing He allows us to be a part of and at the same time being a part of that is also a protection for us in the fight. The more we proclaim it and live it the more we come to understand what He did for us and grow closer and closer to Him and farther and farther from the arrows of the enemy.
Then we see the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy that do come our way. We must hold it up, hold it up high. It does us no good by our side. We can be holding the shield and still get hit if we keep it down. We must use His strength, the strength that we spoke of earlier. It is only with His strength that we can hold up the shield and keep it up.
It reminds me of when Aaron and Hur held up Moses arms while Joshua and the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites. As long as Moses’ arms were up the Israelites were winning and when they were down they were being defeated. That is why Hur, from the tribe of Judah, and Aaron, the High Priest, held them up for him. He did not have the strength on his own and neither do we.
Yeshua, the lion of Judah and our High Priest, is the one who holds our arms up, He is our faith, our strength and our shield. It is when we humble ourselves that in due time He lifts us up. Let Him lift you up with His strength and power. We cannot be defeated if we use His strength to hold up that shield of faith. Hold it up, hold it up high.
After all of this is in place we can put on the helmet of salvation. This helmet not only protects the head, but keeps the head attached to the body. He is the head, we are the body. Just as in our discussion of the Bridegroom and the Bride we must stay with Him and do what is best for Him and He does what is best for us. As we have a helmet so does He. Back to Isaiah 59 we not only see the Messiah in a breastplate of righteousness as He works salvation, but also the helmet of salvation itself. He wants to stay connected to us and so we should want to stay connected to Him. So make sure that helmet is on. How can we fight the battle if we are cut off from the head. Protect your connection to Him. That is why the helmet and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, are spoken of together.
The word of God is one of the main things that protects that connection. Just as the body receives its instructions from the head so the body of Christ receives our instructions from His word. It is our offensive weapon as it was His when He met Satan in the wilderness. We must take this weapon and defend what He has given us, what He has entrusted to us.
The enemy wants to make us believe we are not secure, but if we know our weapon and we are attached to the head, if we hold up the shield of faith and wear the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of readiness, and the belt of truth, then this lie cannot enter into our hearts and deceive us. We are His and He is ours. Just as the master promised the slave to never leave him or forsake him, to abandon him, to pay his own debt on his own, our Master has promised to never leave or forsake us either.
With all of this equipment on we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Remember the passage we mentioned in speaking about Yeshua wearing the belt of righteousness. He had the Spirit of God on Him and so must we. We must pray in the Spirit for the saints to be able to fight the good fight along side of us. We are in this together. We are not alone. He took those who were far and those who were near and made us one nation in Jesus the Messiah. We must stay alert to this fact and the fact that the enemy will also stay alert for any weakness in our armor. We must not let Him find one.
Finally, Paul asked for prayer for himself. Not to be released from his chains, but for boldness to proclaim the mystery for which he is in chains. Would you, would I, be willing to be in chains to proclaim the mystery, nonetheless, desiring to proclaim that mystery while in those chains. No matter our circumstances we must put on His armor in His resurrection power and pray in the Spirit. If we do we will be more than conquerors.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.(HCSB)
Many people in our culture take offense at this passage because of how, on the surface and detached from the rest of the book, it would appear to be subjugating women. That is far from the reality of this passage. Never does God tell husbands to subjugate or lord it over their wives. NO Where! This passage is actually doing the exact opposite.
Imagine for me a human being. They have a head and a body, correct? If you detach the head from the body, what happens? The body dies. Both are vital and needed. Remember that Paul has already, back in chapter one, said that the Messiah is the head of the church, His body. Marriage here in chapter five is being used to illustrate a much larger truth than just how husbands and wives are to live with each other.
I want to deal with the specific issue of husbands and wives for a minute before moving on to the bigger picture. Notice what each are called to do. The wife is to respect her husband. She is to submit to her head. She needs him. To not respect is to say she does not need him and to effectually cut him off. She would be killing herself and him in the process.
Yes, she is submitting to the needs of her husband, his need for respect. This is a huge issue for men and it is the way God made them to be. It is their emotional blood flow, so to speak. They have a need for their wife to respect them because for them it is the wife saying, “I need you”. She is submitting to his needs above her own. Paul tells us that as believers we should allthink of each other as more important than ourselves.(Phil. 2:3) Obeying this mandate as a wife is doing nothing more than obeying the one in Philippians as a believer.
Next, God tells the husband to love his wife. Why? Because that is her need, her emotional blood flow. In order to live and thrive a wife requires love. It is how God made her. It is the husband saying, “I desire you in my life, in every area of my life. You are wanted”. In this the husband is to submit to her need above his own. Otherwise, he would be cutting off his own body and thereby killing himself.
In a marriage there must be this unity and this passage gives the way that is achieved. He, the head, belongs to the body and she, the body, belongs to the head. If they are going to survive they need each other and so each must be sure to give the other what the other requires to survive, respect or love. If this is done then the head and body function together with much greater ease and unity. In so doing they each survive and thrive.
That leads us to what God is illustrating to us. This relationship is what He wishes to have with His people. This is the story of the Bridegroom and the Bride. Yeshua is our Bridegroom and we who put our faith in Him, who follow Him, are His Bride. According to this passage, this is a profound mystery. Notice that our oneness with each other is called the mystery in Ephesians and our oneness with Him is called a profound mystery. This is beyond anything we could have thought of or imagined.(Chapter 3)
That is why it is so important to preserve the true picture of marriage because it speaks of the relationship He desires with us. To change the picture is to attempt to tarnish or twist the reality. For the last 50 years our culture has seen deliberate distortions and downplay of marriage.
Most prominently today, our culture, along with the enemy’s help in deceiving our culture, is beginning to accept more and more the distortion and calling it good.
Marriage is and from the beginning has been between a man and a woman, but our culture is debating redefining marriage to include being between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. What picture does that give of God? It is not two bridegrooms or two brides that offer us the accurate picture of the relationship God wants with us.
I am not saying that people in these relationships realize what they are saying, but to be sure the enemy does and he seeks to distort and twist all God wants for us. And to be sure God knows what it says, that is why this particular sin is called an abomination.
The enemy wants people to concentrate on their
“rights” to be happy and purposefully turns them away from what the reality of what they are doing says about God. That is why it is called deception. Eve sinned based on deception, but it was still sin.
The first relationship we see in Scripture is marriage of one man and one woman. The man represents the Son of God (Luke calls Adam the son of God) and Eve represents the Bride of Christ, the Bride of the Son. In the end we see the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride. One is the picture of the other and to distort and twist it into anything else is the enemy’s attempt to distort and twist what it represents, what it will be in the end.
It is for this reason the church must hold the line on true marriage because we must insist on reflecting the light of the true relationship God wants with His people. Anything else is from the realm of darkness and based on deception.
Bride of Christ – Hold the Line, no one said it would be easy to insist on the accurate picture to a world who desperately needs our Bridegroom when all it seems to want to do is reject Him.
Our Bridegroom wishes to have a spotless Bride, one without wrinkles or blemishes. He paid for us with His own blood. It is the least we can do to hold tight to His promise as His bride. One day He will come for us and call us to Himself.
Ephesians 4:17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts… 20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah… 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. 25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity… 29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. 2 And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God… 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — 9 for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth — 10 discerning what is pleasing to the Lord…15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk —not as unwise people but as wise — 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit: 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.(HCSB)
I admittedly skipped over parts of the passage and I encourage you to read the whole passage in Scripture, but I did it this way to point out some specific things. I want to start at the beginning of the passage with the discussion of Gentiles. If you notice Paul is saying that his readers are no longer Gentiles because Gentiles are “excluded from the life of God”. They are not apart of His family. That may sound harsh, but Paul is definitely using them as a stark contrast to what a believer is and looks like. Gentiles live in darkness, in every aspect of their life, and a believer in Yeshua is the exact opposite, they are people of the Light.
When a person becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and what a masterpeice God makes of them. In this passage Paul says that they are created in God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of truth. Did you catch that? They are created in God’s likeness, in His image. What was twisted and marred with the fall, God repairs. We were always intended to be in Him, to be like Him, to be imitators of Him. We are to reflect Him and so our actions must match that.
That is truly what this passage is about. We are His and we are to be like Him. Therefore, we are to look dramatically different than the rest of the world who live in darkness. We are to live differently and live in such harmony with our fellow believers that it marvels this dark world.
We are members of one another and as such we are to live with each other in certain ways. We are to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave us in Christ. We are to speak to each other in such a way as to only say what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. How do we do this? We speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from our hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the while submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Is that to say that one believer never gets angry at another? Not at all. But we do not allow that anger to take root by “sleeping on it”. We speak the truth to one another, in love. And yes, expect them to do the same. The main game of the enemy is to divide us. He wants to put a wedge between us. Makes since doesn’t it? Jesus prayed that we would be one and so the Devil seeks to do the exact opposite, tear us apart. Question is, who do we allow to win those battles in our lives? I pray the answer is that we always seek to make the prayer of Yeshua a reality through the power of the Spirit, who fills us and seals us.
As we live, filled with the Holy Spirit, we are not only capable of living as children of light (discerning what the Lord’s will is), but we are expected to. Children of the One Light, whose light they reflect, are expected to walk step by step with that One Light. Otherwise they stray into darkness and when there we become easy targets for the enemy to pick off and destroy.
And what is the Lord’s will for us as children of Light. It is to be one with one another, living out the mystery. Submitting to one another. How we do that in our daily lives in everyday relationships is what Paul deals with next. I look forward to talking to you about that.
Ephesians 4:7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says: When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people. 9 But what does “He ascended ” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.(HCSB)
It was the Messiah who gave the duties of being an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher. He did not give them just because He felt like it, but for a very specific purpose. The One seeks for His people to be one. Do not miss that.
On a corner of one of our seminary buildings was verses 11 and 12 and it always bugged me because it stopped there. But Scripture does not stop there. These duties are assigned so that the saints can properly do ministry in such a way that grows the body up. You see, ministry can be done in such a way where the body does not grow up and it stays an infant. So, the question is, what does it look like when the body of Christ is grown up?
Verse 13 gives the answer to that question. You see, we are headed in a specific direction, not meandering aimlessly around on our own. With the help of the Spirit and those God equipped to lead the body the church is supposed to come to a place where they reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of God’s Son.
This part is very important, this unity is in doctrine. This is the area we like to ignore, but according to this passage we cannot. We must have unity in how we live for Him and in our doctrine. We cannot have unity in one and not the other and expect the world to see the Light of Truth in our lives. That is why so much of this book is given to this subject of oneness and unity.
I have often wondered how it is that so many people inside the church want to insist that there can be unity of the body and not unity of doctrine. It has also amazed me that no one really seems determined, within orthodox Christianity, to sit down together and pray together and pour through Scripture together until unity becomes reality.
You know, do the hard work our founders here in The United States did when they shut themselves up in a room, prayed, searched the Scriptures and talked together coming out of that hall with the Constitution.Where are those in the faith willing to do that?
The issue to my past wonderings may be found in the next phrase in verse 13, “growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness”. This can also be translated this way, “into a complete man with a maturity measured by Christ’s completion.” Look at that again, it says, “a complete man”. Does this remind you of anything already talked about in the book.
Back in chapter two Paul talks about the Messiah taking the two, the Jew and the Gentile, to make one man. You see we are not complete without each other. Up until recently in history the Jews were not coming into the faith of the Son of God in very large numbers. However, that is changing and with them we are seeing a resurgence of understanding in the faith.
Could it be that they had to be grafted back into there own tree before we who are in the faith could sit down and really seek unity, complete unity. Did they need to be at the table? I believe so. Why? Because they hold the key to so much that the Gentile church had left behind long ago and frankly no longer made much sense to us. That is why some could think it O.K. to abandon the Old Testament. But it is not O.K., we need each other.
I have often said that Yeshua/Jesus does not want a dysfunctional Bride, yet that is what we have been giving Him for quite some time. No, He seeks oneness, complete unity (John 17) for His Bride. The pieces are in place and we can learn from one another again. Jew and Gentile are no longer separate, but in Christ have become one man, a complete and mature man.
This is why we will not be tossed to and fro by the waves that sail our way. As one, knowing our faith and standing firm up against one another, the waves break on us instead of us breaking on them. False teaching does not stand a chance when the body stands together as one.
No, we speak the truth in love instead of following after false teaching and saying it’s O.K. to do so. We follow the one who is the One. We grow to be like Him who is our head. We grow by each one of us doing our assigned duty in love.
We have been given our marching orders and they are to stand up against one another in love and not to allow any false teaching in.
We must act and think as one, a properly trained military unit. We are His body. He is the head, the commander of the unit. No unit can do anything without the commands of it’s commander. And no unit will succeed when it disobeys its commanders explicit instructions. That is what we have, explicit instructions, commands, to follow. It is up to us to do the following. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “Come, follow me”.
In the weeks ahead I hope to create a page on this website where we can come together in love to discuss our differences and learn from each other as we hear each others hearts.
It will be a place where we can be honest about what we think we understand, but at the same time are willing to hear from others who disagree with us.
It will be a place, not to win an argument, but a place to follow the leading of the Spirit.
Please invite people to come and join us here at Esther’s Legacy, people from different orthodox Christian backgrounds.
We need each other. The Gentile Christian needs the Messianic Jew and the Messianic Jew needs the Gentile Christian. Lest we forget, the different Gentile denominations need each other too.
Ephesians 4:1– “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. 4 There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope at your calling — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”(HCSB)
Knowing the mystery and that he had been given the administration of this mystery, having prayed for the believers to know God’s power and love, Paul basically says “with that in mind let’s get down to brass tax”.
That is what he means by the “therefore”. To add weight to what he is about to say, to let his readers know that he understands how hard it is and will be he calls himself the prisoner of the Lord. He has chosen to walk this path that has taken him to prison and he is calling the others to walk it with him.
This is the life they had been called to and are expected to walk in a way that is worthy, worthy of the calling. And who called them?
The Lord did, not Paul – God called them to this life.
Is living the mystery as God wants it to be going to be easy?
Absolutely not. Loving and living as one will require their all and nothing less. It will take the Spirit filled life.
I want to break down this passage because it is so much weightier than how we often translate it to be in the English.
Beginning with the word “humility” we see that God is asking us to do something very contradictory to the flesh. This word means to think lowly of ones self, having humiliation of mind.
This is the exact opposite of the worldly message of self-esteem where we are called by the enemy to think highly of ourselves, to esteem ourselves instead of others and God. This is by no means easy, but highly necessary.
Our next word is “gentleness “. It is really the word “meekness”. Unfortunately we do not really understand this word.
It is not an absence of power, but a very intense power that is restrained and in control. Meekness means knowing you have power, but not always exerting that power, or right, on others.
Jesus is our greatest example of this. He had the angels at His disposal before His arrest and He restrained that power for the joy that laid before Him, for the sake of His Bride and in obedience to His Father. This is what this word is calling us to be.
Then comes “patience”, a word we simply do not understand. This word does not mean just sit around and wait while we twiddle our thumbs.
This word is the idea of fortitude, standing guard, being fortified. It is being longsuffering in action. Knowing you may be fortified, standing guard, for a long time, but willing to keep standing guard until God moves you.
Are you beginning to think, “O.K. that’s enough, please that’s enough”? Like I said this is not easy, but God does not stop here.
He talks about accepting or bearing with one another. However, the word for “accepting” really means to “hold yourself up against”, in this case, one another.
Are you getting the picture? We are to hold ourselves up against each other in love.
Now here is the idea. The idea Paul is trying to create is a military line. Like troops in formation, we are holding up against one another as a military line and the thing that glues us together is love.
I want to take the next phrase together.
It is “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit”. The word “diligently” means to make every effort with speed.
O.K. what are we doing with speed and with every effort? We are keeping.
The word “keeping” means to watch as in a watchman on the wall, to guard from loss or injury or to hold fast.
We are on the ball, so to speak, and keeping watch on, guarding, and holding fast the unity or oneness of the Spirit. We do this with the peace or oneness that binds us together– our love for one another.
Oneness or Unity is hard work, work that requires every effort and determination to stay the course.
It is also something that does not automatically happen just because we are one body with one Spirit who lives in each of us.
No He will not force this upon us but gives us the directions to achieving it through the power of His Spirit.
We as the body are not one because we do not want it or seek it.
We do not think lowly of ourselves. We do not restrain our power or rights. We have little fortitude and longsuffering and are unwilling to hold up against one another in love.
We do not stand guard over the unity and oneness of the Spirit through any bond of peace. We do not love one another as He has commanded us to do.
We do not do this and I am sad to say that for the most part I am afraid we do not even really attempt it. We are comfortable being apart especially in our different denominations. This should, just as it was for Paul with the Ephesians, be a matter of prayer and concern for us today.
We are to hold fast or hold the line, so to speak, on the matters of doctrine and life that follow in the book. Staying firm on the fact that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all, through all and in all.
Church… you must hold the line, hold fast. You must stand guard over the oneness of the Spirit with all diligence.
Ephesians 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment —to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.(HCSB)
Ephesians3:3 The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. 4 By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. 5 This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 The Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.(HCSB)
Ephesians 3:8 This grace was given to me —the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah, 9 and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.(HCSB)
Ephesians 3 defines the mystery for us as Gentiles and Jews sharing in the promise as co-heirs together in Christ Jesus. This is a true mystery that for ages past had been kept hidden although hinted at. The Old Covenant spoke of people of other nations and tongues coming to worship God, but the actual understanding that Jews and Gentiles would share equally in the promise was not even thought of by those who worshiped The Name.
As we saw in chapter 2 not only were these two to be co-heirs, but would become one man. Yeshua came to make us one together so that we can be presented to Him as a spotless bride without wrinkle or defect. Our God is so awesome and His ways are truly above our ways and His thoughts truly far above our thoughts.
God, however, does not stop by just revealing this mystery to us and then leaving us to figure out how to make this reality in our time for ourselves. Most of us, I would venture to say, do not even think it is really possible for us to truly act and be as one this side of the Messianic Age or heaven. We tend to leave things alone as they are and not strive for true oneness in this world where sin is still a reality. But Beloved, God’s plans are greater than ours and not only does He expect us to act and be as one now, He also gave us the road map of how to achieve it. That is what the rest of Ephesians is about.
Chapter 3 lets us know that God gave Paul the administration of this mystery or to say it another way, He gave Paul the way in which the body of Christ, the blessed bride of The Lamb, could actually carry out this mystery. It is that reality that speaks of God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. When they see God’s Spirit filled people living out the mystery of being one with each other and with Him it screams volumes to the unseen realms of how only God could have thought of this awesome mystery.
It is with this truth that Paul prays the prayer of Ephesians 3.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, 17 and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.(HCSB)
Paul begins pretty much where He left off in the prayer of chapter 1, with praying for power among God’s people. Remember this is no ordinary power as the world defines power, but the power that raised Jesus from the dead. That is what he prays will be in us, in our inner being through His Spirit. He prays that through faith, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, faith that leads us to action not just intellectual awareness that Yeshua the Messiah will dwell, be tabernacled in us (we are the temple of God).
Paul assumes our rooting and firm establishment in love. The believer is rooted deep in God’s love, the love that sent His Son to die for us, and firmly established in our love for one another, a requirement for the believer based on the command of Jesus. He (Paul) knows that it is only in this love, the love God has for us and our love for each other, that we will together with all God’s people even begin to be able to comprehend the love of Christ – the width, depth, length, and height of His love.
It is only together that we will have our full strength to eagerly take hold of that kind of love. It is His love being made manifest in all of us toward each other that makes His love knowable to us just as us living out that life of the mystery makes His wisdom known to the unseen realms.
Paul prays for us to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, which harkens back again to the prayer in chapter 1. We can only be all that God desires us to be as we live in power, faith, and love together. This life baffles the world, but also lets them know that the Father sent His Son.
Can this generation of believers live this life? Yes it can! And the rest of Ephesians instructs us in just how to live out this mystery. So as we study the rest of the book we will be approaching it from this perspective.
My family and I took a trip to Nashville this past Saturday and worshiped our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah, with Kol Dodi Messianic Congregation. It was a heart warming experience. Heart warming because the people of Kol Dodi were very loving and welcoming from the first Shabbat Shalom to the last goodbye.
We spent six hours with them and by the end of our time with them felt like we were one of them. The first two hours were spent in worship with songs in both Hebrew and English, readings from Scripture, teaching, communionand prayer. I have to tell you it did not seem like that much time went by.
Our daughter spent the teaching time with the children after a blessing upon the children was given under a prayer shawl/canopy. While with the children she made a pottery communion cup and met a new friend. One of her teachers has a son who helps with the BCM here at our local university, what a small world.
It was a congregation made up of both Jew and non-Jew. A congregation worshiping in the Hebrew way together with the walls of hostility gone in the Name of Yeshua. It reminded me of the passage in Zechariah 8 where God says that ten men would take hold of one Jew because they know the Lord is with him. What an awesome sight to see Jew and non-Jew worshiping together and being a part of it.
The rabbi’s wife was very welcoming at the picnic as we talked and she invited me to visit with the other ladies and introduced me. I thought, “this is how it should be”. It was a great honor to visit with those ladies and hope to do so again soon.
The mikvah was amazing and started with the call of the shofar. We stood on the bank of a creek as two children and two women went into the water to be baptized in the Name of Yeshua. The two women gave awesome testimonies, one even including a confession that was something only God could accomplish, I pray she will continue to allow God to change her and transform her into the image of His Son.
I could not recommend more highly that each of us find a Messianic Congregation in our region to visit, worship with and participate with in their work. It will bless your heart and you will be awestruck at what God is doing in His Bride.
In the book of Acts we see the apostles having to learn to accept Gentiles into the faith. This took a dramatic event in the life of Peter when God lowered a sheet with unclean animals for Peter to kill and eat. God did this three times and the message was not the food, it was “do not call unclean what (God has) made clean”, meaning the Gentiles. Immediately following this Peter goes to a Gentile home and shares the good news of Jesus with them in their home, something that was forbidden for a Jew to do.
We then see Paul becoming the apostle to the Gentiles. He took the good news as far as he could, no matter the personal cost. Immediately on his heals were the Judaizers who claimed that the Gentiles first had to become Jews before becoming a believer in Jesus. Paul flatly rejected this in very graphic terms. In fact, I want to be clear on this point, once one is a believer in Jesus they are no longer a Gentile because a Gentile is a foreigner and alien, but in Christ we are made citizens of His nation, the holy nation of Israel over which He is king. This was the situation in Bible times.
Fast forward 2000 years and what do we see happening in the land of Israel today? We see many who want to separate the Arabs and Israelis living in the land onto different sides. Truth is they are on different sides. On one hand Jews have the right of return to the land of Israel, the land promised to them, and on the other side the Arabs want the Jews completely out of the land and consider the Israelis to be occupiers and colonialists. There are those who wish to divide the land calling a part of it the West Bank. What some like to call the West Bank in indeed a part of the historical land of Israel once known as Judea and Samaria.
This land is proportioned specifically in Scripture among the tribes of Israel. It was to eventually be the Israelis land. So how can this be resolved? How is reconciliation in a land that just about everyone seems to want to divide possible? There is only one answer to this question.
Those who believe in Yeshua the Messiah are the light in a dark situation. For the Arab believers in the land there is a group called Musalaha (www.musalaha.org), which is Arabic for reconciliation. They organize camps for Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ. This effort needs our prayers.
Musalaha also puts events together so that Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians can come together in worship experiencing how both sides worship Messiah. At the same time they also reach out to Muslim Arabs in the land to show them the love and truth of Christ through different outreach opportunities.
On the other side there are Messianic Jews in the land who want a strong bond relationship with Arab Christians as well. These Messianic Jews are trying to reach out to their fellow Jews with the love and truth of the Messiah. One such ministry in Israel is Heart of G-d Ministries (www.heartofg-d.org). While Heart of G-d seeks to encourage Aliyah (Jewish right of return) of all Jews both Messianic and not Messianic, there are some elements of the Israeli government that are trying to keep Messianic Jews from having the right of return, claiming they are not real Jews. They too need our prayers.
Both sides report a good relationship with the other. A relationship that is only possible through Christ. These two sides are coming together. As they do they will begin to look more and more like each other. Why? Because they will look more and more like the Savior.
The Arab does not have to become a Jew and the the Jew does not have to leave behind his roots, on the contrary they are both the spiritual nation of Israel. Both grafted into the one tree that is Israel, God’s nation of princes, His holy nation and priesthood. The root of that tree being the Old Testament (Covenant) fulfilled in Yeshua who spilled His blood, the blood of the New Covenant.
It should be our prayer that as more and more Jews come into the land they will come to know their Messiah as they are surrounded by the truth of who they are and who He is. Also, that the Arab Christians will spur them on to jealousy as they continue to grow in their own faith and grow closer and closer to the Messianic Jews.
Jesus is the answer for the peace of Jerusalem and the land of Israel, ONLY Yeshua. What an awesome time we live in. We have before us a living example of the two becoming one if only we will take the time to see.
Yes, Jesus has put to death their hostility. Now it is up to these believers to live that out in a land and an environment that would rather them not. Yet it is the life that Yeshua calls them to live. A life that the cross of Christ demands. They must pick up their cross daily and follow Him where others do not want to go. How blessed they are as they daily live out the mystery. May God grant them His grace and His power to live this life.
In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul discusses peace, but do we today really understand what this peace Paul is speaking about is. Typically when we hear the word peace we think of quietness, stillness and rest. To be sure that is part of what Paul is talking about, but there is also something much more profound in the word “peace”. It is rest that can only be found when we draw near to God. When we find our rest in Him. Even more it means oneness with each other and God. Being made whole. This idea is carried out repeatedly in this passage. Read this passage with that in mind. You might even want to substitute the word “oneness” for “peace” and see how that opens up the passage for you.
EPH 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This whole passage is about God making the two – those who were far and those who were near – one. One with each other, putting to death their hostility and hatred for each other by the death of Jesus on the cross. In Isaiah 57 the Lord says, “Peace, peace to those far and near.” This passage in Ephesians is stating that this has been fulfilled in Yeshua, who came to proclaim the glad tidings of oneness (peace) to those who were far and those who were near.
Let’s back up. As God’s light of grace shone on those who were aliens to His people, Israel, they were brought near to His people and to Him through the cross and blood of the Messiah. Also, those who were already “near” through the covenants and promises were brought truly near by the cross and blood of Christ. For even they, though they had been given the covenants and promises, could not come near enough to God by following the commands and regulations of Scripture – no one can. As Scripture says, “No one is righteous, not even one”(Psalm 14:3, 53:3 and Romans 3:23). Humanity, whether Jew or Gentile, is not capable of coming near, truly near, to God on his own. Sin always separates us, that is why Jesus died. Only the God-Man could live a sinless life and therefore fulfill the commands and regulations of Scripture becoming the perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant.
It is with the New Covenant, promised back in the book of Jeremiah that God says, “I will be their God and they will be my people”. He promised a heart and mind that had the law of God written on them ready and willing to follow Him. It is the blood of the Messiah that is the blood of the New Covenant – the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats could never be enough, only the blood of The Lamb of God was sufficient.
With the New Covenant Gentiles of the flesh were made citizens of Israel, citizens together with the Jews – all having faith in the Messiah. It is the Messiah that is our peace, our rest, our stillness, our oneness. I heard a really wonderful illustration of this recently. It is actually one that is in Scripture though we have lost the mental picture of it. In Israel when a wild olive shoot comes up next to a cultivated olive tree that shoot literally raps itself around the tree and after a time you can no longer distinguish the wild shoot from the original tree. That is an awesome picture to me. In this way Christ made the two, the Gentile and the Jew, one tree. Both indistinguishable from the other.
Taking this new tree (made from the two), this new man, Jesus then reconciled both to God through the cross. Again, Paul states that through the cross their hostility was put to death. The Jew and the Gentile were hostile to each other then in Paul’s day and they still are today. Yet in the cross of Christ, the Messiah, this hostility has been put to death and this is also seen today. Next week I want to highlight some of the ways God is doing this in our generation.
Paul ends by saying the through the Messiah both Jew and Gentile (now both part of the spiritual nation of Israel, God’s people) have access to the Father by the one Holy Spirit. It is the first time in this passage that Paul uses the plural pronoun “we” purposely bring the two together. This new man is being built into a holy dwelling built on the foundations of both the prophets and the apostles.
The Old Covenant points directly to the New, even prophesies it – the prophets. It was the apostles who first proclaimed its fulfillment in Christ. Therefore, together the prophets and the apostles make up the foundation of God’s household. This foundation, however, would be worthless without the chief cornerstone, Yeshua the Messiah. It is on Jesus that the whole house is joined together as one and rises as one holy temple.
The final verse (22) reads in the English as if Paul goes back to just talking about the Gentiles. However, I do not believe that is the case. Instead, the “you” is plural, meaning both the Jew and the Gentile in the household of God, the church or assembly of Israel (in this case in Ephesus). The household of God, both Jew and Gentile, are being built together into one to become the dwelling of God where He lives by His Spirit. Paul is summarizing what he had already said in detail.
We are one, both with each other and with God through the cross of Christ and by His Spirit and our hostility has been replaced by love for each other and our God.