Our Heavenly Calling in Christ

Neil Girrard
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Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Jdgs. 21:25 π Mt. 5:44 π Mt. 7:13 π Mt. 7:14 π Mt. 13:25 π Mt. 13:28-30 π Mt. 13:38-39 π Mt. 13:39-42 π Mt. 13:43 π Mt. 24:3-5 π Mt. 24:4 π Mt. 24:5 π Mt. 24:12 π Mt. 24:13 π Mt. 24:24 π Mk. 10:42-43 π Mk. 12:29 π Jn. 4:23-24 π Acts 20:17 π Acts 20:28 π Acts 20:30 π Acts 20:30-32 π Acts 20:31 π 1 Cor. 3:1 π 1 Cor. 5:11 π 1 Cor. 12:13 π 2 Cor. 5:15 π 2 Cor. 6:17 π 2 Cor. 11:3 π Eph. 2:8-10 π Eph. 4:1 π Eph. 4:1-3; 2nd π Eph. 4:1-16 π Eph. 4:3 π Eph. 4:4-6 π Eph. 4:7-10 π Eph. 4:11 π Eph. 4:12 π Eph. 4:13-16 π Eph. 4:17-22 π Eph. 4:17-5:21 π Eph. 4:23-29 π Eph. 4:30-32 π Eph. 5:1-5 π Eph. 5:6-12 π Eph. 5:8-10 π Eph. 5:13-17 π Eph. 5:18-20 π Eph. 5:21 π Eph. 5:22-24 π Eph. 5:22-6:9 π Eph. 5:25-33 π Eph. 5:32 π Eph. 6:1-3 π Eph. 6:4 π Eph. 6:5-8 π Eph. 6:9 π Eph. 6:10 π Eph. 6:10 π Eph. 6:10-20 π Eph. 6:11 π Eph. 6:12 π Eph. 6:13 π Eph. 6:14-17 π Eph. 6:18-20 π Eph. 6:24 π Phlp. 2:12-16 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Ths. 2:3-4 π 2 Ths. 2:9-10 π 2 Ths. 2:12 π 1 Tim. 4:1-3 π 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2nd π 2 Tim. 4:3 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π 2 Tim. 4:4 π Heb. 12:15-17 π Heb. 13:13 π 2 Pet. 2:1; 2nd π 2 Pet. 2:1-2 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π 2 Jn. 9 π Jude 4 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15 π Rev. 14:1 π Rev. 14:4 π Rev. 19:16

Greek Words Mentioned in This Article

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has rightly been called the grandest, noblest, most majestic “mountain peak” in the New Testament range of “mountains.” It has been well noted that “Ephesians focuses on the believer’s responsibility to walk in accordance with his heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. ( Eph. 4:1; top ) Ephesians was not written to correct specific errors in a local [ekklesia], but to prevent problems in the [ekklesia] as a whole by encouraging the body of Christ to maturity in Him. It was also written to make believers more aware of their position in Christ because this is the basis for their practice on every level of life.” (Kenneth D. Boa and Bruce H. Wilkinson, The New Open Bible Study Edition, Introduction to Ephesians, p. 1351) These topics – the believer’s responsibility and basis for practice and progress toward maturity – are indeed staggering in scope. Yet these are the key subjects incorporated in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and we will see how they are more significant now than perhaps at any other time in church history.

Paul’s craftsmanship as a writer is not what one particularly notices when reading Ephesians because the subject matter is so profound and compelling. Yet the structure of Ephesians is as much an element of this letter as is anything else. Ephesians divides almost perfectly into two halves – the first half focuses on what we are responsible for doing in response to and in conjunction with what God has done. The first half resounds with the phrase “in Christ” or some equivalent and these appear some thirty-five times. It is instructive to note that the first half contains no imperative commands at all but instead focuses completely in on God’s gifts. The second half, however, includes some thirty-five or so direct imperative commands and concludes with a focus on how to “be strong in the Lord, and is the strength of His might.” ( Eph. 6:10 ) Surely this balance and symmetry is no accident but is instead a glimpse into what it means to walk according to our heavenly works or efforts of our own but is instead the balance one attains to when one lives in total reliance upon the Spirit of God. This balance and symmetry is an expansion of what Jesus touched upon when He said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” ( Jn. 4:23-24; top )

Two passages stand as the key to each half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

So What’s the Problem?

What problem(s) was Paul anticipating that the ekklesia as a whole would encounter? Elsewhere, Paul wrote:

Peter wrote:

And Jesus Himself, when asked what the sing of His return and the end of the age would be, said:

How do we know that Paul is addressing the apostasy at the end of the age? In a prophecy that Paul gave to the Ephesian elders, he said:

“From among yourselves men will rise up, speaking corrupted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” ( Acts 20:30-32; top )

Some two or three years after this “farewell speech,” Paul writes the towering letter we now look upon as the highest peak of the New Testament and more deeply addresses the very same subjects that are so prominent in his last words to the Ephesian elders.

Say All That Again

Because so much of the prophetic insight regarding the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith, has been dismissed by the “church” – that instrument that is the great falling away from the faith – many people can read these prophesies under the mis-interpretations or gloss that is routinely put upon these things and never grasp the significance of the picture presented.

The primary sign of Christ’s return is rampant, prevalent deception. ( Mt. 24:4 , also see 2 Ths. 2:9-10 ) Many will come claiming to belong to Christ and claiming to be the appointed representative of God who has the delegated right to proclaim what God is saying – and many will be deceived. ( Mt. 24:5; top ) The truth of this prophecy has been obscured by the usual rendering, “…saying, ‘I am the Christ (Messiah)…” If this rendering were accurate, we are forced to conclude that Jesus is a false prophet for throughout church history only a relative few have claimed to be the Messiah and they have never deceived but a few. But today there are many “pastors” and televised talking heads who stand behind their pulpits and proclaim to the large crowd seated at their feet that they are the one anointed to proclaim the word of God.

These are the heaped up ( 2 Tim. 4:3 ) false teachers who stand as the head of the sect of followers who align themselves under (or behind) this false teacher ( 2 Pet. 2:1 ), false not primarily because of his false doctrines but because of his false position over the people. (see Rev. 2:6 , 15 ; Nicolaitanism, Greek, “conquer the people,” also see Mk. 10:42-43 , etc.) Many are deceived and caught up in these dangerous and destructive denominations that teach the people to practice lawlessness (what is right in their own eyes – Jdgs. 21:25 ) and then call it “theology” or “Christianity.” There are at least a dozen “theological” fables ( 2 Tim. 4:4 ) that are currently being taught as “true doctrine” in many “churches.” All the while, the Lordship (the right to be Absolute Monarch) of Christ is either given mere lip service, neglected, rejected or scoffed at while men use His name to practice whatever form of unrighteousness they prefer. (see 2 Ths. 2:12 ) Far too many “church” congregations conform to Paul’s description of those from whom we are to turn away! ( 2 Tim. 3:1-5 ) The truth of these prophesies are obscured by the renderings of lawlessness (Greek, anomia [ 458 ]) as “iniquity” ( Mt. 24:12 KJV, etc.), by adding “doctrinal error” to the original meaning of “heresy” (Greek, hairesis, [ 139 ], originally “sect or party”) and by assuming that “denying the Lord” ( 2 Pet. 2:1 , Jude 4 ) had the same idea behind it as did John’s instruction regarding those who have departed from the teaching of Christ. ( 2 Jn. 9; top )

The Apostasy’s Beginning

The departure from the faith began when men rose up and drew followers after themselves – precisely as Paul had prophesied would happen. ( Acts 20:30 ) The manner in which Paul’s prophecy to the Ephesian elders was so stunningly and precisely fulfilled, yet which went largely unnoticed by men, is eloquent testimony to the truth Jesus put forth in the parable of the wheat and the tares: “While men slept” the devil planted his sons among the sons of the kingdom. ( Mt. 13:25 , 38-39; top ) Let us look more carefully at exactly what Paul said would happen and what church history tells us did happen.

These are the roots of the “church” that have now sprouted into the great apostasy, the widespread departure from the faith that occurs before Christ’s return as King of kings and Lord of lords. ( 2 Ths. 2:3 , Rev. 19:16; top )

The Focus

Let us recall the focus of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, now knowing it to intentionally be a picture devoid of the corruptions Paul himself foresaw coming upon the ekklesia at some future date, and restate it in terms more plainly suited to the realities now at hand:

The great apostasy is the departure of many from the faith even as they continue to use (misuse!) the name of Christ and God. There simply is no way on earth or in heaven to help the many. “Wide is the gate and broad (easy) is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” ( Mt. 7:13 ) The only way to escape the apostasy is to become one of the few who again stand on the true Mt. Zion (the ground of the genuine ekklesia) and follow Christ wherever He leads. ( Rev. 14:1 , 4 ) It is again (still) necessary for us to “go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” ( Heb. 13:13 ) The truth remains that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ( Mt. 7:14; top )

The High Calling

Though the second half of the letter to the Ephesians readily divides into four parts, each section resists being labeled because of the depth and profound nature of what is being said. That is, any label, while capturing something of the gist, fails to fully encapsulate the whole thrust of the passage. But let us, nonetheless, take a quick overview of the structure Paul placed in the second half of his letter:

  1. Unanimity among the ekklesiaEph. 4:1-16

    The unanimity (Greek, henotes [ 1775 ], whole agreement, one accord) of the ekklesia ( 4:1-3 ) is built upon the oneness of God ( 4:4-6 ) and upon the fact that we have all been made to drink of His one Spirit, the Spirit of God who is One. ( 1 Cor. 12:13 , Mk. 12:29 , etc.) From the oneness of God and through our intimate union in His oneness flows the manifold (multi-faceted, many-expressioned) grace (mercy and power) of God. ( 4:7-10 ) This grace is expressed trans-locally (in messengers, forth-tellers and heralds) and locally (in shepherds and demonstrators). ( 4:11 ) As these people express God’s grace, new and younger converts and disciples receive the grace (mercy and power) of God and are strengthened and equipped to do the works of service that glorify Christ and God. ( 4:12 ) This is not the end goal, however, as each one is responsible for pressing on toward spiritual maturity that increasingly resembles and demonstrates Christ. ( 4:13-16; top )

  2. The new lifeEph. 4:17-5:21

    The old life must be left behind ( 4:17-22 ) and the new life must be embraced ( 4:23-29 ) or we offend and grieve God’s Spirit within. ( 4:30-32 ) We are to replicate (Greek, mimetes [ 3402 ], “copy, imitate, duplicate”) God because no one who remains in the old life will inherit their portion in God’s kingdom. ( 5:1-5 ) God’s judgment will certainly come upon all those who remain in disobedience and darkness ( 5:6-12 ) but we are to walk as wise, alert children of light. ( 5:8-10 , 13-17 ) We are to be filled to overflowing with His Spirit ( 5:18-20 ) and be submissive (not tyrannical or overbearing) toward one another. ( 5:21; top )

  3. RelationshipsEph. 5:22-6:9

    Wives ( 5:22-24 ) and husbands ( 5:25-33 ) are those God chose to best demonstrate the mystery of Christ and His ekklesia ( 5:32 ), a relationship which must certainly center around the oneness and unanimity of the Spirit ( Eph. 4:3 ) Even children ( 6:1-3 ), fathers ( 6:4 , slaves ( 6:5-8 ) and masters ( 6:9; top ) have their responsibilities before God.

  4. Mature warfareEph. 6:10-20

    We are to be strong (not weak) in the Lord (not our self), in the strength of His (not our) might. ( 6:10 ) We are to put on the full (not partial) armor of God so that we may stand against all the schemes of the devil (which we will know because we are strong and mature and not weak or carnal – 6:11 , also see 1 Cor. 3:1 ) We face various kinds of spiritual (not physical or human) enemies ( 6:12 ) so we must have all the armor of God so that when all the dust settles, we are still standing. ( 6:13 ) Our armor is truth, righteousness, preparation in peace, faith, salvation – our weaponry is the word of God (not necessarily the Bible – which did not exist as we know it at that time!) and prayer ( 6:14-17 ), praying for boldness in the setting forth of the gospel even when faced with the likelihood of imprisonment, torture or execution for the faith. ( 6:18-20; top )

This is the high call of God in Christ Jesus – to know and withstand all the deceptions of Satan, especially in these last days, and continue to endure in the faith, genuinely and sincerely loving one another, those in the world and even our enemies. ( Mt. 5:44 ) As Paul wrote elsewhere, in words that echo resoundingly in our time and season, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling and arguing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” ( Phlp. 2:12-16; top )

Paul’s heart was that those he had disciple would continue on with Christ. He feared that some would not ( 2 Cor. 11:3 , etc.) and Paul’s fears and great effort to keep them from the dire consequences that attend departing from the faith ( Acts 20:31 , Heb. 12:15-17 , etc.; top) exposes the lie of much modern “theology.” Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is written to the remnant of the end of days who would face Satan’s most sophisticated and dangerous deceptions while still carrying the responsibility to live and die according to the heavenly calling in Christ upon our lives.

Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians, saying, “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” ( Eph. 6:24; top ) Certainly he meant to include us, here in the last days, in this blessing.

Let he who has ears hear.

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