Notes on the Book of Ephesians

Taken at a Bible Study Led by Walt Henrichsen

In San Francisco, 19-23 March 2007

 

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 3. 1

Chapter overview.. 1

The mystery of the Church, a metaphysical entity separate from Israel 1

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, interrupts himself before he prays (3:1-14) 5

The Church, a mystery not conceived in the OT. 5

What happened to the Jewish church after 70AD?. 5

Promises for Israel and the Church. 7

Why Paul’s tribulations were for the readers’ glory (3:13) 8

The mystery of 3:6. 8

The wisdom of God vs. the wisdom of man (3:10) 8

The danger of defining or fixing form and structure in the Church. 9

Paul’s progressive thinking about his depravity (3:8) 10

Unavoidable hypocrisy as we confront sin. 10

Knowing our depravity should help us better help others. 10

Limits of authority regarding expectations for behavior 11

Limits of authority regarding conscience and convictions. 11

Decision-making authority and responsibility. 12

Conscience and convictions. 12

Foreknowledge and God’s eternal purpose (3:11) 13

Faith, the great equalizing aspect of the Gospel 13

The dichotomy of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. 14

The manifold wisdom of God is displayed in all He does (3:10) 14

Boldness and access with confidence through faith (3:12) 14

Win-win situation of Paul’s tribulations (3:13) 14

Three-part and two-part views of the “inner man” (3:16) 15

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Chapter overview

·        Four important words in this chapter: Gentile, grace, mystery and Christ

·        These 4 words are weaved together to form 3 divisions:

·        1-6 Mystery

·        7-9 Messenger

·        10-19 Manifestation

 

The mystery of the Church, a metaphysical entity separate from Israel

·        God’s eternal purpose of uniting the Jew and the Gentile finds its fulfillment in Christ and its expression in His Church.

·        The fact that the Gentiles were included in the eternal plan of God was not new.

·        That was not the mystery.  This was discussed often in the Old Testament, but it was always assumed that their absorption into the plan of God would be through Judaism.  In short, the Jews would proselytize them, so that they would become rightly related to God by becoming Jews themselves.

·        The mystery revealed through Paul was that God’s plan was entirely different
in that He was going to take something from the two – the Jew and the Gentile –
and make something entirely new, the Church.

·        The Church was not conceived in the Old Testament.

 

Q:  Why should the institution of the nation of Israel still exist or happen in eternity?

·        That is precisely the argument of the amillennialist.

·        There’s no reason for it to exist, because Eph. 2 says you’ve got something new, so it’s unnecessary.

 

Q:  So why would God still want to keep the institution of Israel in eternity?

·        The question, ‘why did God commit Himself to an institution in the first place?’ He never discusses.

·        My sense is – and this is simply supposition on my part – that God’s commitment to the nation of Israel is a more pure and clean expression of the grace of God than found in any other relationship, because in God’s gracious commitment to you reciprocity is required.  You must believe.

·        [For] Israel there was no reciprocity required.

·        Now, granted, a generation or two or three might receive the wrath/indignation of God,
but His promise throughout the OT scriptures is that His commitment to Israel is inviolable,
so much so that He uses Hosea’s ungodly, nonsensical of marriage to Gomer as an illustration of the fact that Israel has always been a whore.  She’s never been anything but a whore.
Nevertheless, God is committed to her in marriage, and that will never be broken.

·        So, it [Israel] is a magnificent expression of the grace of God.

·        So, Israel never had to make its election and calling sure.  You and I do.

·        Israel never had to demonstrate that it was one of the elect through a life of obedience.

·        Now, granted, Israel was required to obey, and God roughed Israel up [brought hard times] quite a bit when she refused to obey.

·        Nevertheless, the OT scriptures communicate that God would never for any reason rescind [take back] His commitment to the nation of Israel.  Period.

·        There are a number of promises that are made to the nation of Israel that either have to be allegorized, or they wait for their fulfillment.

·        For example, in the book of Amos 9:13-15: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved.  “Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit.  “I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,” says the LORD your God.  (NASB)

·        My sense is that that is yet to be fulfilled.

·        God promises through the later prophets a material recreation.

·        The lion will lie down with the lamb; peace will be over the earth.

·        If Israel and then church are the same metaphysical entity, then you have to allegorize these promises and say that they are all pictures of the Church.

·        My hermeneutic says you only consider a passage or word figurative if the context demands it.

·        That’s why I would not be surprised if Jesus says to me in eternity, “You know when I said, ‘unless you eat My flesh and drink my blood’ in John 6, I really meant that.  Henrichsen, you’re the one who said you should not allegorize the scriptures.  Why did you make that a figurative phrase?”

·        I don’t anticipate that, but I would not be surprised either.

·        Remember, gentlemen, it is in the nature of the case that when you form an argument, you do so to the neglect of material that would support the opposite.  It’s in the nature of the case,
so that when we argue for a particular view or a particular interpretation, our tendency is to ignore those portions of scripture that would call that interpretation into question, but unless the guy is really way, way out [in error], if he believes something, he’s got a reason, and there are some very good reasons that the amillennialist offers, so make no mistake about it; it’s not a thoughtless conclusion.

 

Q:  So, in terms of 1948 Israel, they just dismiss it as just something God wants to do and not relating to the promises?

·        When 1948 took place, nobody knew how to look at Israel.

·        Even the staunchest dispensationalist would say, “I don’t know what to do with it.”

·        I don’t think I would feel comfortable suggesting that this is the promised restoration of, for example, Amos chapter 9.

·        So, Israel remains an enigma.  It is not a God-fearing, God seeking, law-abiding nation.

·        Granted, there is a strong Hassidic orthodox element in Israel that makes a huge emphasis on the keeping of the law, and so forth, but the nation is socialistic and secular.

 

Q:  Aren’t the borders also not yet the same as the Promised Land?

·        That is the reason why men like [Menachem] Begin, who was orthodox and took the Bible literally said, “We’ve just begun to take the land.  All of that is ours.”

·        So there is no pragmatism in that worldview – not of the orthodox Jewish view.  “They’re living on our land.”

 

Q:  So prior to 1948 when the nation of Israel was established by the United Nations, how were the people anticipating it?

·        Nobody knew what it would look like, but it was obvious that in the Book of Revelation if you take that literally, there is the presence of a temple, but nobody is willing to go in the middle of the night and bulldoze the mosque off the rock.  At least up to now nobody’s been willing to go and do that.  That’s why I say it’s a pragmatic nation.  It’s not trying to fulfill the OT promises.

·        There are plans to build a new temple, and they recently found the cistern that supposedly identifies the exact site next to the Dome of the Rock.

·        [But] those kinds of articles and rumblings have been present from Israel’s conception.

·        Nevertheless, is what we see in Israel the beginning of the end in the fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation?

·        I’ve never heard anybody say ‘yes’ to that definitively; ‘maybe’, but not dogmatically, ‘yes.’

 

Q:  Regarding the anticipation of the second coming of Christ, how did the 1948 event alter people’s view?

·        Nobody’s ever known what to do with it.  Those who were pro-Israel rejoiced.

·        The U.S. was the first nation to recognize Israel.

·        Before that time, prophetic conferences were very popular in the U.S., but not so much any more.

 

Q:  [Is it] because they don’t know what to do with it?

·        I think so.  I think so.

 

Q:  Then even today, for example, the dispensationalists in Dallas talk very little about the modern nation of Israel?

·        That’s a true statement.  At least I have not read or heard them talk about it.

·        I’ve talked with men like Howard Hendricks about it, but everybody seems to be rather tentative
 – not tentative regarding God’s fulfillment of the promises
 – but tentative regarding that being part of that fulfillment.

 

Q:  Are you saying that when everything gets fulfilled, the Church is a new creation, and you’re saying that the remnant of Israel will have its own specific promises that will be fulfilled, separate from the Gentiles and the Church?

·        Again – speculation – my sense is ‘yes.’

·        God said to Abraham, “I’ll give you the land, and I'll give it to you forever.”

·        The Bible talks about, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” [Mt. 5:5]

·        I suggest to you that for most of you sitting here, the thought of inheriting the earth does not really motivate you.  Now I may be wrong, but I think that has significance to the Jew in a way that it does not to the Gentile.

 

Q:  But could you say that if that’s true, it doesn’t mean necessarily that there’s a commitment to the nation and not to the individual.  It doesn’t necessarily mean salvation.  It’s just basically God fulfilling His promises.

·        Yes.  It assumes that there are two programs of God – one for the individual and one for the nation.

·        But as we’ve talked about in the past, the OT is strangely silent regarding the commitment to the individual.

·        When Paul says [in Rom. 4:3], “Abraham believe God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness,” he’s quoting Genesis 15:6, but it’s interesting to note that none of the OT writers went back and grabbed that and talked about it.

·        None of them talked about the imputed righteousness of faith that I’m aware of.

·        You certainly don’t find it in the Law of Moses.

·        So he says [in Gal. 3:29] that, “If you are of Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

·        But what is the promise?  That I’ll impute righteousness to you if you believe.

·        But if there was an eternal hope in the OT, then why didn’t that verse become an anchor for the prophets, for example, like it is for the Apostle Paul?

·        When people ask, “How were people in the OT saved?”  We say, “Theologically, through Christ.  No man comes to the Father but by Me [Jn. 14:6].”

·        But it wasn’t an issue.  It wasn’t a question in the OT.

·        The only question was, “How do we get along with God?” and the answer is, “keep the law.”

 

Q:  You said that most Christians are not motivated by the inheritance in the land, but how about the inheritance outside the land?  In 1:18 Paul’s prayer is for them to see the riches of the glory of their inheritance.

·        I would suggest that most Christians see this inheritance as a rich, exciting entity of some kind that they will eventually inherit, but it’s all very, very vague in our minds.

·        We talk about ruling, as God said we will do.  We don’t think about ruling portions of the earth – at least I never have – maybe an asteroid or two out there.

·        In Revelation, it’s a new earth we’re inheriting, not the old earth with all the global warming and garbage.

·        Agreed, but does that fill you with expectation – inheriting a recreated earth?

·        It’s more perfected, and then there’s that big temple, like 4000 miles wide and high and talking to animals, etc.

·        Some brother wants to rule Causeway Bay, because it has lots of good restaurants.

 

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, interrupts himself before he prays (3:1-14)

 

Q:  Why did Paul write “for this cause” in both 3:1 and 3:14?

·        Some people think he meant to start in verse 14 but got interrupted and inserted 1-13.

·        I.e., because of chapter 2 [Gentiles brought into God’s program], I pray 3:14-21.

 

Q:  In 3:1, he word is not doulos (slave) but desmios (prisoner), so whose prisoner was Paul?

·        Christ’s.  Christ caused Rome to put Paul in prison to help the Gentiles.

·        How did it help?  3:13 his tribulations were for the Gentiles’ glory

·        Note: Paul didn’t view himself as a victim.

·        Because Paul preached to the Gentiles, he provoked the animosity of the Jew / Judaizers – they were behind his initial arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem.

 

Q:  Were they mainly unbelieving Jews?

·        Both

 

Q:  How was Paul martyred?

·        That’s conjecture.  The Jews could not, because he was a Roman citizen and appealed to Caesar.

·        The Romans put Paul to death, because God wanted them to put Paul to death.

 

The Church, a mystery not conceived in the OT

Q:  What was the mystery in 3:3,4,9?

·        That the Gentiles did not have to go through Judaism.

·        In OT, the prophets talked about the Gentiles being included, but everyone assumed it was by becoming Jews – just like Ruth.  There was no salvation outside Israel.

·        [In 2 Kings 5:14-19] when Naaman the leper said he wanted to serve the God of Israel, he took some dirt back to Assyria because he knew God was committed to that piece of real estate.

·        If you were disgruntled with Israel back in those days, you could not start another Israel.

·        The only way you could do it was reformation.

·        When the church saw itself as Israel, it came to the same conclusion.  Thus came reformation.

·        The word ‘mystery’ appears 20 times in the NT.

·        Paul used it 10 times.  It is in the Gospels 7 times and in Revelation 3 times.

·        It is used in Ephesians 3:3,4,9.

·        The two operative words in verse 3 are revelation and mystery.

 

Q:  If God revealed to you a truth that nobody else had seen before and ran counter to your understanding and to everybody’s understanding of the plan of God, do you think you’d receive opposition?

·        So did Paul, so the opposition of Paul is not surprising.

·        But Acts 15 was surprising.  James said OK, you serve the Gentiles; we’ll serve Jews.

·        I don’t’ think the apostles conceived what the Church would look like today.

·        I imagine the Judaizers came out of the churches of Peter and James.

·        James and Peter said that Paul didn’t have to make people follow the [Mosaic] Law, but they would.

·        The Jerusalem Council embraced the mystery, but they never made it part of their own ministry.

 

What happened to the Jewish church after 70AD?

Q:  Do we know when Christians stopped animal sacrifices? 

·        At the close of the book of Acts, when Paul was receiving a lot of opposition in Jerusalem, the leaders of the church in Jerusalem told Paul to go up and offer blood sacrifices in the temple.

·        This must have continued up to the time of the destruction of the temple in 70AD.

 

Q:  They still offered blood sacrifices, even though Jesus had been a sacrifice on the cross?

·        The OT Jew never saw sacrifices in propitious terms.

·        They never saw it as expiation for the individual.  Yom Kippur was a national rite.

·        I think that’s the reason Jesus chose the Passover rather then Yom Kippur as the time of His death.

 

Q:  So it was not until the he writer of Hebrews expounded on animal sacrifices that they stopped?

·        That’s right, but even he points out that the sacrifices were only for sins committed in ignorance.

·        There was no sacrifice for willful sin.  (Nu. 15:30.31)  [See also Heb. 10:26-28.]

 

Q:  Did Paul get a blessing from all 12 apostles to go to the Gentiles?  Some of them went too.

·        We don’t know what happened to all the 12 apostles in their ministries.

·        The evangelization of Asia and parts of India were attributed to Thomas.

·        I suppose he would not have tried to make Jews out of them.

·        But the leadership at the Jerusalem Council said, “We will minister to the Jews.  You minister to the Gentiles.”

·        I take that to mean they thought that’s where the action was [i.e., where God’s main work was].

 

Q:  So it was not a kind of strategy?  You do this part; I’ll do that part?

·        Well, yes, we can think of it in strategic terms.

·        My point is that I don’t think they went back to their congregation and said, “we’re not going to continue going to the temple, and we’re not going to circumcise our children.”

·        I think they continued doing that, and Paul never spoke against it.

 

Q:  So in 2 Peter 3:15,16, when Peter mentioned that Paul’s writing, his wisdom, his concepts were right (although difficult to understand), that didn’t mean that he was embracing that revelation into the teaching to the Jews?

·        I think they were happy to embrace it in the teaching of the Jew – the idea that the Gentiles didn’t have to [follow the Mosaic Law, but not the idea that the Jews had to give it up].

·        It would be like you ministering in Shanghai, and saying that Caucasians are welcome to your worship service, but you’re still going to speak Mandarin.

·        The truth of the matter is that the preponderance [majority] of the people to whom they were ministering to were Jews.

·        Peter’s teachings were similar to Paul’s, but Peter didn’t say that the law was abrogated or abolished.

 

Q:  How do you explain Galatians 2, when Paul publicly accused Peter of living like a Gentile but forcing Gentiles to live like Jews?

·        I think that Peter found himself trapped in a very embarrassing and contradictory situation when James’ party showed up, and he only ate with the Jews.

 

Q:  Do you think that maybe Peter didn’t have the same kind of conviction Paul had?

·        At the Jerusalem council Peter intervened on Paul’s behalf using the illustration [his own experience] with Cornelius.

·        So, theologically Peter accepted it, but two things I note with you:

·        One is that doesn’t mean that emotionally he accepted it and shifted his practice and ministry, and

·        No. 2, it doesn’t mean that he stopped practicing the [Mosaic] Law.

 

Q:  So what happened to the Jewish church founded by Peter, James and John, while the Gentile church was prospering?

·        They had no place to go.

·        As a struggling minority, they migrated to Pella and eventually dissipated and disappeared.

 

Q:  Is it possible at that time that the apostles decided to merge with the Gentile church rather than become a minority?

·        There was no compelling reason to tell the Jew he had to stop practicing Judaism, so why would he do that?

 

Q:  It seems that because of your culture you would automatically be isolated from other brothers.  The Chinese church in North America is a good example.  In theory, we are the same brothers with our American counterparts, but in practice we are the First Baptist Chinese Church of Chinatown.  The emphasis is based on culture.

·        Two things on that: one is that nobody – of the NT writers I can’t find evidence from any of them that – anticipated a long delay in the return of Christ.  They all felt it would happen in their lifetime.

·        So Peter saw the need in his second epistle to warn scoffers who say,
“Where is the coming of the Lord?” because everybody’s been preaching that He’s coming.

·        And so I think it was kind of a non-issue as far as they were concerned
[i.e., two separate movements – Jew and Gentile – so it didn’t matter.]

·        I think the second thing they never anticipated was that the Church would become overwhelmingly Gentile, when at that time it was overwhelmingly Jewish.

·        Even in Paul’s missionary journey, it had a strong, strong Jewish element to it.

·        I suspect Paul went there, first, because the Gospel [was] first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles,
but secondly, [because] that was where he was going to get the preponderance [majority] of his leadership.  They were less likely to be divorced, living in debauchery, etc.  They were monotheistic.  They knew the Bible.  They would become the obvious leaders in an emerging church.

 

Q:  Was the reason for the persecution of Paul his insisting that Jews and Gentiles are of the same status in the same family of the transcultural Gospel?  This was a mystery to the Jews, so the Judaizers hated Paul, but this brings glory to the Gentiles.

·        Yes, but I’m not sure if I’d use the word, ‘glory.’  ‘Benefit’ is a better word.

·        The mystery made it much easier for the Gospel to spread among the Gentiles.

·        Imagine what it would be like leading a guy to Christ in China and saying, “before you invite Christ into your life you must be circumcised.”  Then, he rolls his eyes and says, “You’ve got to be kidding me.  I’ve got to do what?”  It would be a tremendous impediment.

·        If a religion is too tied to a culture, then you’ll create enemies.

 

Promises for Israel and the Church

Q:  In 3:6 is it says the Gentiles will be fellow heirs and partakers of the promise of Christ.  That doesn’t include the Gentile inheriting the land, does it?

·        Right.  The promise is singular.  Notice in verse 6, it identifies three aspects in which the merger of the Jews and Gentiles finds expression: (1) fellow heirs (only time in NT that word appears), (2) fellow members, (3) fellow partners

 

Q:  What if I read Ephesians 2 and 3 and say I conclude that this new body, the fellow heirs, that they are also fellow fellow-partakers of the promises given to Israel, to the kingdom and all the OT promises, would there be anything wrong with that conclusion or position?

·        No, I think that in a figurative way, that’s what amillennialism does.

·        They can’t see any practical way of applying that in the way you stated that, so they do flip it around [unclear what flipping, maybe the Church = Israel?].

 

Q:  What if you flip it around the other way [unclear what was meant]?

·        If there is a literal 1000-year millennium, then I would say that in that sense it really will happen.

 

Q:  So is there one new covenant with two programs [dispensationalist view] or just one new covenant with one program [amillenialist view]?

·        The amillennialist rightly points out that the new covenant quoted in Hebrews 8 [which quotes Jer. 31:31-34] and also Hebrews 10 was inaugurated or instituted by our Lord Jesus.

·        That’s the point of chapter 8 – He’s the mediator of a new covenant.

·        The new covenant is with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah.

·        Therefore, we are the House of Israel and the House of Judah.

·        The law is operative, not abolished.

·        Therefore, whatever it is that Paul says about the abrogation of the law, it’s got to be modified by the fact that the new covenant includes the law.

 

Q:  Do you agree that there is one new covenant, or [in other words] do you see the new covenant of Jer. 31:31-34 to be the same covenant [of Hebrews 8]?

·        Yes, and it raises questions I cannot answer
[unclear what was meant, but perhaps it is related to part of Jer. 31:31-34 not being fulfilled yet.]

 

Why Paul’s tribulations were for the readers’ glory (3:13)

·        In Paul’s teaching the Gentiles and the Jews can be in the same body through the transcultural Gospel.

·        But the Jewish Christians rejected this kind of Gospel and started to persecute Paul.

·        Paul therefore encouraged the audience to not be disappointed by this fact
[“do not lose heart at my tribulations” in 3:13]

·        And [he said] the rejection actually brings about the true actualization of the transcultural Gospel, which in turn brought glory to the Gentile Christians [“my tribulations for you are your glory” in 3:13]

 

The mystery of 3:6

Q:  According the 3:6, what was the mystery?

·        It was not the inclusion of the Gentiles (because that could be done in the OT by becoming Jews)

·        It was the creating of the Church, which included both Jews and Gentiles – a transcultural entity.

 

Q:  Would there be a problem among Jews to be fellow heirs with Gentiles?

·        No, because the Jews were commanded in the OT to welcome sojourners.

·        If they became Jews they were given full rights and privileges.

 

The wisdom of God vs. the wisdom of man (3:10)

Q:  How would you define the wisdom of God?

·        God by definition is wisdom.

·        We see that wisdom as we begin to understand His purposes and programs being enacted in history.

·        We have questions, and finding answers makes us say, “Wow! What a wise, wise God!”

·        3:10 says that even the angelic beings [“powers in the heavenly places”] were still hindered from understanding [the wisdom of God in His design of the Church].

 

Q:  When you talk about wisdom, righteousness, truth or love, you are required to view these words from the perspective of a standard.  That makes it difficult when God is the standard.  So how do you define God being wise?  He is by definition all of the above.

·        The reason men naturally hate God is that we don’t want Him to make the decision.

·        Academia never argues for the abolition of truth.  They just say ‘We define it, not God.”

·        Therefore, you can’t say it’s wrong to fornicate, but you can’t cut down a tree.

·        God says He’s adamant on us believing what God says is true.

·        In the final analysis, the one who is the most powerful makes the definition.

·        The Golden Rule – he who has the gold makes the rules.

 

Q:  So why are we in such a mess with all this wisdom?

·        What do you think ought to happen that hasn’t?

·        The church be strong and everything under one head.  It seems the church is not a true union yet.

·        Yes, but Christ is building His Church.  He’s never been frustrated.  He is never behind schedule.

·        He never asked Peter to help him.  He doesn’t need us.

·        So the Church as we see it is the Church as God wants it.

·        That doesn’t mean that God is pleased with our disunity, sin and depravity.

·        But neither is he surprised by it. 

·        In chapters 1-3 the believer is passive.  It’s about what God has done.

·        The inclusion of the Jew and the Gentile was not something done at the spur of the moment

·        But it was planned since the foundation of the world.  That was the marvel of it!

 

The danger of defining or fixing form and structure in the Church

Q:  Why is Satan still fighting? 

·        Why are you and I still fighting?  He is stupid and proud – still learning his lessons.

·        Willfulness with God is stupid.  It’s dumb.

·        Our problem is we are trying to help God build the Church by organizing.

·        And we forget that we are invited to participate with God in what He’s doing so we can gain in eternity.

·        He said He’d build his church, but He didn’t say how, unlike how he specified how the tabernacle was to be built.  That’s why the Church wants to define form and why there are different forms of government.

 

Q:  Why did God give very detailed instructions in the OT for worship but not in the NT?

·        This is speculation, but a culture is the incarnation of a religion.

·        If you want to know what Hinduism looks like, visit India.  But the church is transcultural.

·        So God does not want the Church to become a culture manifestation.

·        Therefore, He gives it no structure.

·        If we had a God-given set of instructions on how to build the Church, then with it we would create a culture, and at that point the Church would cease to be transcultural, I think.

·        It would also limit the work of the Holy Spirit.

·        If a guy says he got something from the Holy Sprit, it’s fine as long as he doesn’t say the Holy Spirit wants me to do it too.

 

Q:  Is there something wrong with having denominations?

·        Even in the NT, the institutional church is a cultural manifestation.  It’s not a biblical manifestation.

·        The church at Corinth is cultural.  It’s not a biblical manifestation.

·        All churches will by definition have a culture, but that’s the genius of the Gospel.

·        You can go ahead and create it if you want, but the moment you say you’ve got agree with us if you’re going to be part of it, you make yourself a sect, because what you are saying to me is I can be a part of Jesus’ church, but I can’t be part of yours.

·        And you say to yourself, “I don’t think I want to go there.”

·        That’s not a happy place to be – you can belong to Jesus’ Church, but you can’t belong to my church.

 

Q:  But that’s what [often] happens.  Saying come to church 10-12 on Sunday is just like circumcision to non-Christians.  [Do you agree?]

·        It’s one thing to say that a group of us agree to meet from 10-12 on Sunday mornings.

·        It’s an entirely different thing to say that if you don’t meet with us, you are not a part of the church.

 

Paul’s progressive thinking about his depravity (3:8)

·        Earlier: 1 Cor 15:9 – I am the least of al the apostles.

·        Here (Eph. 3:8) – the least of all saints

·        Later: 1 Tim. 1:15 – the worst of all sinners

·        Gentlemen, we call that sanctification.

 

Unavoidable hypocrisy as we confront sin

·        The extraordinary thing of being a follower of Christ

·        Shakespeare, in Hamlet said, “Conscience makes coward of us all.”

·        He who does not have his shoes shined doesn’t tell other to shine theirs.

·        Paul freely admits he’s a hypocrite.

·        I’m a great sinner and capable of committing any sin, and God knows I hang by a thread,
but I warn you don’t break those commandments.

·        As we noted in chapter 2, you cannot appreciate your position in Christ apart from an awareness of your depravity.

·        Jesus did not come to save good people.

·        I should no more expect to see good people in church than expect to see well people in hospitals.

 

Q:  Paul had depravity, but he wasn’t sinning when he said things, so in that sense he was not a hypocrite, [right?]

·        I remember a dialogue with my daughter when she was small.  I asked, “Did you do that?”

·        She said, “Yes, but before you spank me, do you ever do bad things?  Who spanks you?”

·        I said to her, “I don’t spank you because you deserve a spanking but to help you.  Justice is not my objective.  Correction is.”

·        The biblical Christian says, “I would rather condemn myself to hell than to affirm your sin.”

·        If I allow my conscience to silence me, I do so to your hurt.

 

Q:  What if your daughter said she’s learned her lesson, so you don’t have to spank her?

·        Then I’d say fair enough (unless it was the 6th or 7th time).  OK.  I won’t spank you then.

 

Knowing our depravity should help us better help others

Q: A lot of people in the US say, “I go to church. I’m not a sinner.”  Isn’t that more hypocritical?

·        It would seem to me – I’m not sure I’m responding to your question or comment – that to the degree I realize that I’m the least of all saints, the chief of all sinners, it should soften me and make me empathetic, understanding, non-judgmental, humble.

 

Q:  But a lot of Christians are certain [rather than fearful].  These seem like the ones who aren’t very aware of their depravity.  So the awareness of it causes you to be unsure, not certain.  Therefore, there’s a fear [right?]

·        Yes, but that fear is directed vertically, not horizontally.

·        Horizontally, these other attributes ought to kick in.

 

Limits of authority regarding expectations for behavior

Q:  Does this apply only to rebuking those in willful sin, because in James it says not many of you should assume to be teachers?

·        Yes.  It depends on my line of authority.

·        As the head of my home in the raising of my children I will insist on compliance to expectations I would not expect with a brother or sister in Christ who’s not a member of my family.

·        As a physician you’ll expect compliance from the people who work for you that you would not expect from your patients.  So if you ask your nurse for a syringe or a piece of gauze and she says, “I’m not going to do it,” you’d say that may not be a biblical command, but we do have a problem.

 

Q:  What about in the body of Christ?

·        In the body of Christ the believer is free to do whatever the Bible does not prohibit.

·        That’s why it’s so important that we keep clear in our distinction between that with which we disagree and that with which we disapprove.

 

Q:  What if the elder in your congregation says I must do something?

·        Only within the parameters of the scriptures.  If the elders of your congregation say you ought to give all your money to them and they’ll decide how to spend it, you don’t have to.

 

Limits of authority regarding conscience and convictions

Q:  What if the elder insists you agree on certain doctrines?

·        Men, let me emphasize something.  Nobody surrenders his or her conscience or convictions to another person.  The wife does not to her husband.  The child does not to his parents.

·        The conscience and the convictions are exclusively the prerogative of God.

·        So if you ask me to keep silent regarding a conviction I have if I’m going to be part of your group, I can acquiesce [submit passively] to that, but if you ask me to make your conviction my conviction, you ask me something that you have no right to ask.  And no man should expect it of his family.

 

Q:  So are you saying that if a wife has a different conviction, she doesn’t have to submit?

·        No!  No!  No!  I didn’t say that at all!

·        The wife obeys the husband in everything other than the violating of the negative commandments.

 

Q:  So then in that case how could a wife not surrender her convictions?

·        We do it all the time.  We do it in all of our interpersonal relationships.

·        That is the nature of being in submission.

·        That’s the reason I did not want to be involved in the leadership of organizations – simply [because] I did not want to do that to my people, even though that was my right.  As a matter of fact, it was my job.

 

Q:  So in the earlier example, if the daughter gets spanked for correction, how does it work in heaven?  When we disobey do we receive correction or justice?

·        Forgiveness does not eliminate consequences.  Never has.  Never will.

·        If your daughter foolishly spends her money and asks, will you forgive me?

·        You say of course I’ll forgive you.

·        Then give me some more money.

·        No, that wasn’t part of the deal.

·        Eternal accountability has nothing to do with forgiveness.

·        It has nothing to do with discipline.  It’s just a consequence, giving an account.

·        Paul says [in Gal. 6:7], “Do not be deceived.  God is not mocked.  What a man sows, that he reaps.”

·        You’ve got the following conclusions you can make from that:

·        That takes place on this earth, in which case you’re no different from Job’s three friends, because that was their argument

·        Or Paul is wrong.  It’s not going to happen, in which case I’d say to you, “Good luck!”

·        Or the consequence – the reaping, that is – may take place here, but for sure in eternity.  And that’s where I will come down [stand].

 

Q:  Do you have any example of a wife not surrendering convictions to husband?

·        [If] I say to my wife, “I really think the elements in communion are the actual body and blood of Christ,” I have no Biblical right in saying she must have the same biblical conviction as well.

 

Decision-making authority and responsibility

Q:  What if the conviction involves a response in action?  [For example, if] I go home and I tell my wife that I have a strong conviction that God wants me to sell my house and move to Africa, and my wife says, “I don’t have that conviction,” but in action she has to submit [right?]

·        Absolutely.  Yes, and I would say further, no man should delegate determining the will of God to another person.  That’s his responsibility before God.  He can seek counsel.  He can even use counsel as a determining or decisive factor, providing he understands that the decision was not the counsel’s decision but his.  He and he alone answers to God for it.

 

Q:  Can you apply that to the body of Christ, if a leader has a particular conviction?  For example, he might have a conviction – not against the Bible – to preach the Gospel to a certain group of people, and we don’t have the same conviction, but we submit by working with that leader [right?]

·        Yes, because you can always leave the organization and do something else.  [So] you don’t have to submit to him.

·        It’s instructive that Luke in the Book of Acts at the Macedonian call [Acts 16:6-12], God called Paul, and “we sought to go.”  So God was doing the calling through Paul, but Paul’s conviction became Luke’s.  Earlier, Paul’s conviction did not become John Mark’s, so John Mark left [Acts 13:13].

 

Q:  What if a man decides to leave the decision to his wife?

·        That’s within his prerogative, but he has to understand that God will hold him accountable.

 

Q:  What if you make an unwillful mistake – you truly seek to obey God and you struggle to make a decision and later decide it was the wrong one?

·        My first question is how did you conclude it was the wrong path?

·        You certainly can’t do it through circumstances.  You walk by faith.  Life is a crapshoot.

 

Conscience and convictions

Q:  Are conscience and convictions the same, or can you use them interchangeably?

·        A lot of my convictions aren’t influenced by my conscience.

·        [For example,] I might be convinced that a passage means a certain thing, and my conscience may not be involved in it.  At least that’s how I think my mind works.

 

Q:  So we should never violate our conscience, but we can violate our convictions?

·        Part of growth in the Christian life is the altering of both, because your convictions are authoritative, but they are not absolute.

·        Your only absolute is God as he reveals Himself in scripture.

·        So you may have a conviction that it’s wrong to drink a glass of wine, but later change your conviction.

·        So I hope all of us would alter our convictions and conscience in the sanctification process.

 

Q:  Would you define conviction simply as something you feel strong about?

·        Yes.  I’m convinced it’s right.

 

Q:  But conscience is something you consider is right or wrong?

·        Right.  It has a dimension of morality to it that the other does not necessarily have.

 

Q:  How much should you influence other people’s convictions?  Or should you just stick with the essentials?  For example if you are trying to disciple someone or teach your kids, how much should you try to pass on convictions you have?

·        Seems to me that that’s one of the primary objectives I have as a husband, father and disciple-maker.

·        That’s why whenever I teach or preach or do anything, I pray, “O God, help me not to misrepresent You!”

 

Q:  So the way you teach is not dogmatic – you’re not making rules for us?

·        Some things I become dogmatic on, such as the commandments and my core.

·        The Bible is the inerrant Word of God.  I want with all my being to convince you that that’s the case.

 

 

[Third day’s morning break]

 

 

Foreknowledge and God’s eternal purpose (3:11)

·        God’s “eternal purpose” in 3:11 probably more than any other idea destroys and repudiates foreknowledge as the basis for which predestination takes place.

·        The Armenians say predestination depends on foreknowledge.

·        [They say] God knows I’ll believe ahead of time, so He predestined me.

·        This means God was a responder, not an initiator.

 

Faith, the great equalizing aspect of the Gospel

·        3:14 says we have boldness and access with confidence because of our faith in Him.

·        The question as we end the three chapters is, “How can I obtain this great treasure?”

·        Paul says, through faith in Jesus - the great egalitarian [equalizing] aspect of the Gospel.

·        I don’t need special knowledge, special intellect or special gifts.

·        I don’t even need to exercise self-control.  All I need is what anybody can offer: belief.

·        I believe You.  I trust You.  That’s the genius of the Gospel.  Obedience attests to my faith.

·        Story: a man was walking along the rim of the Grand Canyon and accidentally fell over the edge.

·        30 feet down he managed to grab a hold of a tree limb, but the drop was a mile to the bottom.

·        “Help!” he cried.  Then, a voice said, “Let go, and I’ll catch you.”

·        He thought and shouted, “Is anyone else up there?”

·        Really, though, he had no option.  Eventually he’s got to let go.

 

The dichotomy of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man

Q:  Are we all predestined to believe or not?

·        Yes and no.  We are still responsible

·        Nobody is comfortable with the tension of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.

·        [It’s a dichotomy – something with seemingly contradictory qualities]

·        We tend to like more esoteric [difficult to understand] doctrines like the Trinity, because it doesn’t touch our moral sensibility.

·        The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man strikes at the very core of our being.

·        Therefore, we wrestle with it, whether we are Armenian or Reformed.

·        In reality, all Christians agree that the tension exists.

·        For example, I’ve never heard a Calvinist say in evangelism, “This may not apply to you, but Christ died for the elect.”

·        I’ve never prayed with an Armenian who said in prayer, “God, I know you’d like to save this man, but you’re impotent, and there’s nothing you can do about it, and so the reason I’m praying is that I’m just kind of commiserating [feeling sorrow] with You, because of the fact that you can’t do anything with it.”  I’ve never heard anyone talk that way with God.

·        We believe both sides, we are just not comfortable with it.

 

Q:  Could our having a will after death be related to this issue?

·        Yes, but all was I was asking you to do is entertain the possibility.

·        I suggest you would be served well to entertain the possibility.

 

The manifold wisdom of God is displayed in all He does (3:10)

Q:  Is it the wisdom of God that a sinner can be seated in heaven with God and not make heaven dirty and violate his justice?

·        Yes, the genius of God – no other religion has ever sought to answer the question “how can God be both the just and the justifier?” [Rom. 3:26]

 

Q:  Is it the wisdom of God that sinners can be holy?

·        Yes

 

Q:  Is it also the wisdom of God that the enmity between Jews and Gentiles be destroyed and they form the same body

·        Yes.  All that God does manifests His wisdom.

 

Boldness and access with confidence through faith (3:12)

Q:  In 3:12 is the boldness and access with confidence related to assurance?

·        Yes.  Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.”

 

More on the dichotomy of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man

·        The present reality of problems in the Church is simply disobedience on man’s part

·        Problems in the Church are our fault; Jesus is not behind schedule.

·        Part of bringing about the oneness is a command.

·        If people don’t receive the Gospel, at least we’ve done our part.

 

Win-win situation of Paul’s tribulations (3:13)

·        Verse 13 – I don’t want you to lose heart at my tribulations but rather glory in it.  My loss is your gain.

·        Your gain is my gain.  It’s a win-win situation.  Therein lies the glory of the matter.

·        The sufferings I have should not be a source of discouragement to you, but they should be quite the opposite.

 

Three-part and two-part views of the “inner man” (3:16)

Q:  What is “the inner man” of 3:16?

·        Where the Holy Spirit operates and dwells.

·        Rom. 7:22 – I delight in the law according to the inward man.

·        2 Cor. 4:16 – the inward man is being renewed day by day.

·        What does it mean?  What’s involved in it?

·        Two views:

·        [3-part man view]  Some argue that the higher powers of the soul – the reason, the mind, the spirit, the inner man – retain their integrity after the fall, but in themselves are too weak to gain their victory over the lower, psychic part of man, designated as the flesh or the soulish man, or the outward man.  [The argument is] namely, that this struggle goes on long before regeneration between good and evil inside of a person.

·        [2-part man view]  Others teach that the whole of the soul – the higher as well as the lower parts of the human nature – are both the seat and the subject of original sin, so that man is naturally disabled and made opposite to all spiritual good.  Therefore, says this second position, the conflict of which scripture speaks is not between our higher and lower nature, but between nature and what is not nature, that is it’s between the old and the new man.  The new principle is something supernatural, communicated by the Spirit of God rather than naturally present, because the sin of Adam did not adversely influence it.

 

Q:  So which view do you believe?

·        Is the second one total depravity?

·        The second one argues that the inner man is not the soul as opposed to the body, the rational as distinguished from the sensual, rather the inner man is the interior principle of spiritual life, the product of God in His power through His Spirit entering us and changing us.

·        Is man three parts or two parts?  Is he body, soul and spirit, or are soul and spirit the same?

·        Basically, the question of the inner man revolves around that issue or question.

·        The second option is saying that the inner man of which Paul is talking about is the regenerated man.

·        There are profound implications on the difference between man being a three part or two part [being]

·        I encourage you on your own to do some background study on that, so that it’s clear in your mind.

 

Q:  The second view would state that the unregenerate person has no inner man.  Is that right?

·        No.  Both views state that the unbeliever has an inner man.

·        The first view would say that that inner man is not adversely influenced by the fall.

·        The second view would say that that inner man when unregenerate is enslaved by sin.

·        The question is, when the Bible talks about the soul and the spirit, is he talking about the same thing or two different things?  And what difference does it make?

·        The three-part argument says that animals have soul – mind, will and emotions – but no spirit.

·        The two-part argument says that the soul and spirit are the same.

 

Q:  What about the dog and the cat [in the two-part view]?

·        He does not have a soul.

 

Q:  So the mind, will and emotions are not part of the soul?  Is that what it’s saying?

·        If you’re talking about whether a dog has a mind, will and emotion, then obviously that’d be the case.

 

Q:  I’m always amazed when you talk about man and animals.  We are the only animal that has the concept of God.  Does that mean anything?  Is this something about our soul or spirit?

·        Yes, and I would suggest to you that that is the reason why the argument that the soul is what we have in common with the animal is not accurate.

·        Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his own soul?”

·        That’s the [Greek] word ‘psyche,’ from which we get psychology.

·        Spirit is an entirely different [Greek] word, ‘pneuma.’

·        I’m saying that they are synonyms.  I’m suggesting they’re synonyms.

·        But not everyone agrees, so I’m asking you why?

·        But rather than me going into that, let me suggest that as an object of your research at another time.

 

Q:  You are you suggesting that you believe in a 2-part [man]?

·        Correct.

·         

Q:  So you can say that your regenerated man needs strengthening [3:16] rather than your residual good inner man or so-called soul needs strengthening?

·        That’s exactly right.  Yes.

·        That goes back to whether we are inherently good or bad.

·        The first [3-part] view implies that there is some residual good.

 

Q:  Will this influence how you view Romans 7?

·        I’m not sure. I haven’t thought enough about that passage to comment.  I think I’ll take a pass on that.

·        I wanted to point it out, because it occurs 3 times – Rom. 7:22, 2 Cor. 4:16 and Eph. 3:16 – and it’s been a source of debate in the body of Christ for years and years.

·        I just wanted to call it to your attention.  I didn’t want to spend a day debating it.

·        It’s not my core, but it is in the next circle.  I think it’s important.  Not essential, but important.

 

Q:  If the first [3-part] view implies that man is basically good, wouldn’t it then become non-negotiable?

·        I would not exclude the Armenian from fellowship.

·        I would say that he’s missing an important but not essential ingredient.

·        A proper definition of election is also not a part of my core.  Mine, not yours.  Mine.

·        You can always find a Calvinist by when he falls down the stairs and when he gets backup he says, “I’m glad that’s over with.”

 

Q:  In 3:18, is it talking about now or in the future?

·        3:18 I want you to be able to grasp, comprehend now all these things.

 

 

[Third day’s lunch break]